The Open Floor podcast considers how the future of San Antonio's head coach role after Gregg Popovich and whether that's a plausible outcome for new assistant Tim Duncan. Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver of The Washington Post, then compare Duncan a bit to the historical merits of Shaquille O'Neal. And the guys break down the modern day challenges of coaching millenials.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
SHARP: Collin asks: Is Tim Duncan's appointment as a Spurs assistant coach a precursor to him eventually taking over the head job when Gregg Popovich retires? "I hate the Spurs," Colin adds. "But I really want this to happen because it would be so, so cool." What do you think, Ben?
GOLLIVER: It's brilliant in theory but I worry in practice, Andrew. You know, communicating with millennials, it's not like the old days, all right? This is a different challenge, and we learned from the experience of Brian Shaw, where he was, like, trying to rap the game plans to his players and they're all looking around. Like, there's a real generational divide here.
GOLLIVER: I can see Tim Duncan being an incredible assistant coach, right? Because that's more about one-on-one education and knowledge and like, you know—
GOLLIVER: Brother-type stuff. That head coaching job comes with a lot of, you know, different responsibilities: balancing minutes, communicating with every single guy, motivating people. I think that Duncan as a culture-setter would be unparalleled. But he's gonna have to communicate with the media constantly. What he says as a coach matters, even though we like to joke about Popovich's press conferences, like, there's a lot to them and he is a master manipulator and button-pusher in those kinds of settings. It's difficult to see Duncan wanting to do those things and actually doing them with any sort of a gusto. And you also have to kind of be the face and sell the organization and carry your teams through tough times as a coach. And that's not something that Duncan ever had to deal with as a player because he was so darn good, they never struggled. They were great for 20 years straight. So maybe he should challenge some of these preconceived notions that I have about what could be potential weaknesses for him. Maybe he should prove me wrong just like he proved guys like you wrong for 20 years at being one of the all-time greatest champions the sport has ever seen.
SHARP: Are you calling me a Tim Duncan skeptic? I don't think I ever would check that box on my own.
GOLLIVER: We've definitely argued about Duncan versus Kobe before. I guess my point is here, I would be nervous if this would happen. I like the idea of the assistant coach. I think it's awesome. And if they both ride off in the sunset together if this is Popovich's last season. I think that's beautiful. I like the press conference and the press release they put out where it was very simple, describing him as a Wake Forest graduate who happened to play 19 years in the NBA and kind of leaving it at that.
SHARP: Well I was very Spursy. It was a little cute as far as I was concerned. Honestly, I mean, they're very impressed with how low key they keep it with all these things. But that aside, I think this is really cool and I'm super, super excited to have him back in the mix, and that is kind of off brand for me. I was not a Duncan super fan growing up. And I think that the precise argument that we had with Tim Duncan vs. Shaq, and that is an argument I will continue to this day. Shaq is the most underappreciated superstar in the last 40 years.
GOLLIVER: That's terrible. You only got five rap albums and 10 blockbuster movies. So underappreciated.
SHARP: I just think as far as where he ranks historically, we're underselling him by about five or six spots on most of the all-time lists. I can tell you that Tim Duncan's amazing.
GOLLIVER: Now, Shaq undersold himself. We can, we can agree on that. I mean he definitely could have put in a little bit more work. It's just nice to see guys who hit 100 percent out of their their God given abilities like Tim Duncan. Do you actually like this idea of Duncan as a head coach, though? Or do you share my—because I look at it like this: Duncan's legacy is, like, as pure as it gets right now. Right? And we've seen other players whether it's Magic Johnson trying to be a coach or an executive, Other guys who went out on top and went out in beautiful storybook fashion with basically 100 percent approval ratings, like Michael Jordan for example, as you're just you know killing his sneakers and his ability as an owner, do we want Duncan subjected to those same possibilities? Or does he really have anything to gain from doing this? That's my question.
SHARP: Here's why I would love to see him as a head coach: I want to get to know Tim Duncan. And so you talk about the media responsibilities as being a major negative, which I'm sure for him, it would be and it would be something that would counterbalance any enthusiasm he has for ever becoming a head coach. But I would really enjoy getting to know Tim Duncan as he gets older and does have to meet with the media. It's one of those things where, like, I'm not expecting him to be chatty Cathy in the scrums everyday. But just having to show up and talk to people before and after games, I feel like we would see more of his personality come to the surface and I think he's probably a really interesting guy and someone that, like, we just don't know very well.
I know, you talked to Spurs people, and they all swear that he's really funny behind the scenes and is more expansive than he's ever been in public. And I think seeing that side of him would be pretty interesting and exciting. That said, everything you laid out about why being the head coach would be more challenging—the ego management, and, you know, managing up to the front office and everything else like that—may be more trouble than Tim Duncan cares to inherit. And I think the idea of him staying after practice for an extra 45 minutes to work on post moves or to help out Dejounta Murray or Lonnie Walker whenever, that seems like a much more realistic role for him than being the head coach one day.
GOLLIVER: You know, it would be the ultimate act of selflessness that we've seen from Tim Duncan in his entire career to be the guy who says, "Look following great Gregg Popovich's footsteps is like the ultimate nightmare scenario for a coach, I'm going to go and do that for a year or two and I'm not going to be good at it intentionally." So that we can set up a brighter future for whoever the next coach is after him, if he would just kind of like jump on that landmine for the entire organization, that actually could improve his reputation just another degree, you know?
SHARP: Tthat's a great, great read on it.
GOLLIVER: That's how I'm going to spin it when he goes 30-52 in back-to-back seasons.
SHARP: Yeah exactly. Which will be much better by the way than Michael Jordan coming back to the NBA with the Wizards. OK. It's a low bar as far as like legends reprising their role in the spotlight. So I think Tim Duncan, whatever he decides to do with the Spurs, is going to be able to clear that bar.