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So, with Popovich’s top assistants leaving the staff, Duncan didn’t want to leave his coach alone, according to multiple staffers. Buford’s eyes welled with tears when asked about Duncan joining the staff, and he declined to delve deeply into the matter.
“It crushed Tim to do it when he was already home being able to travel to volleyball games, his kids’ events, and do car pickup all the time and not be on the road,” Blucas explained. “I think it was loyalty to Pop, a loyalty to the organization. It certainly wasn’t guilt. But it was like, ‘I’m not gonna let him or them go by the wayside without me getting in the fight.’ I think there was some level of responsibility that goes back to Tim Duncan the human being: loyalty, honor, and being appreciative and grateful for the people who have done for him.”
It’s with this level of caring that Duncan led as a player on the sport’s most competitive stage.
“If you asked me what’s the vision I have in my head of Tim Duncan, it’s him kind of patting a teammate on the head kind of lovingly walking off the court after a timeout,” Babby said. “You’ve probably seen him do that a million times. To me, that captures everything about him.”
It’s authentic, too.
Blucas saw it firsthand as Duncan’s college teammate. He experienced it through long conversations and sitting next to Duncan on the bus ride back to campus when “we both got our asses kicked” in the power forward’s ACC debut as a freshman against Sharone Wright and the Clemson Tigers.
“First off, you can’t have that level of success without being a killer,” Blucas said. “But he didn’t pound his chest and scream in people’s faces. Different superstars have different styles of leadership. Tim’s always going to be the guy to put his arm around you first instead of getting in your face. That’s just who he is. He’s gonna come to you with love before he comes at you with challenge, aggression, competitiveness, anger and intensity.”