Tim Duncan has officially left the building. And while scores of basketball fans around the world are still reeling from the news, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich can’t begin to fathom what it would be like to start a new season without his stalwart.
Duncan and Popovich were largely responsible for the Spurs dynasty which won 5 championships over the last three decades including an NBA record 17 consecutive seasons of 50+ wins. During their time together, Duncan and Popovich never missed the playoffs, a feat that eluded the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Tim Duncan was ‘real and consistent’
For many years, Popovich maintained that it was easy to coach a team that was led by Duncan, who he hailed as ‘the most real, consistent, true person’ during an emotional farewell speech on Tuesday.
“And I can honestly tell you, my dinner (if I had a choice to have dinner with one person) would be with Tim Duncan, because he is the most real, consistent, true person I have ever met in my life. He was so genuine, it blows your mind, like Buckley or Vidal would in an avant-garde sort of way,” said the legendary Spurs coach.
Read: Transcript of Gregg Popovich’s entire speech (Watch Video Above)
Popovich, who held a front office job with San Antonio before becoming head coach in 1996, thanked Duncan for his personal success. “I would not be standing here if it wasn’t for Tim Duncan. I’d be in the Budweiser League someplace in America, fat and still trying to play basketball or coach basketball. But he’s why I’m standing.
“He’s made livings for hundreds of us, staff and coaches, over the years and never said a word, just came to work every day. Came early, stayed late, was there for every single person, from the top of the roster to the bottom of the roster, because that’s who he was, in all those respects.”
Tim Duncan ‘is irreplaceable’
Popovich, a former three-time coach of the year winner, has won 1,089 out of 1,574 games as head coach of the Spurs. Duncan contributed to more than 1,000 victories. Last year, Spurs recruited all-star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge as a possible longterm replacement to Duncan. But Popovich know that nobody can replace Tim Duncan.
“He’s irreplaceable. It can’t happen. We’re all unique — I guess each one of us is unique — but he’s been so important to so many people it’s just mind-boggling. To think that he’s going to be gone makes it really difficult to imagine walking into practice, going to a game, getting on the bus, taking him a piece of carrot cake, whatever it might be,” said Popovich.
What now? Will Tim Duncan pursue a coaching career? Popovich thinks Duncan is “too smart” to go down that road. “I don’t think we’re going to see Timmy going up and down the sidelines much. But I have a notion he will at least listen to being involved, somehow or other, maybe even on a part-time basis. I’m certainly going to hit with everything I have to keep him around here as long as I possibly can because he means that much to everyone in the organization.”
Tim Duncan averaged 19 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over 19 seasons with the Spurs.