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Tim Duncan stepping down as Spurs' assistant coach

The move came as no surprise within the organization, as it understood from the beginning that Duncan would assist Popovich for only a short period.

Michael C. Wright

Michael C. Wright

Gregg Popovich has said on multiple occasions that Duncan is “too smart” to devote himself entirely to the coaching profession.

San Antonio Spurs Hall of Fame forward Tim Duncan won’t be accompanying coach Gregg Popovich on the bench next season, the team confirmed on Thursday, as the former assistant plans to step away from coaching on a full-time basis.

The move came as no surprise within the organization, as it understood from the beginning that Duncan would assist Popovich — as the Spurs transitioned from franchise stalwarts such as Manu Gionobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard to a younger roster — for only a short period, according to sources.

Besides, Popovich has said on multiple occasions that Duncan is “too smart” to devote himself entirely to the coaching profession.

It’s unknown whether Duncan plans to return to the staff after the upcoming season. But after Duncan retired in 2016, the forward kept a space inside the coaches’ locker room at the team’s facilities and routinely attended workouts, as his personal business — BlackJack Speed Shop — is less than a mile from the team’s facility.

As a player, Duncan played a major role in San Antonio’s five championship over his 19 seasons with the Spurs. Duncan earned recognition in making 15 All-Star teams, 15 All-NBA teams and 15 All-Defensive teams, two Kia MVP awards and two Finals MVPs before joining the coaching staff as an assistant in 2019.

Duncan, 44, made his debut as San Antonio’s head coach back in March when Popovich missed a road game against the Charlotte Hornet to attend to personal business. The Spurs prevailed 104-103 in that game.

Assistants Becky Hammon, Will Hardy and Chip Engelland still remain on the staff. To fill Duncan’s position, the team promoted assistant coach Mitch Johnson and elevated Darius Songaila to assistant coach.

Hammon has served on San Antonio’s coaching staff since 2014, and Engelland joined the staff in 2005. The club promoted Hardy from video coordinator to an assistant coach in 2016.

San Antonio’s all-time leader in points (26,496), rebounds (15,091), blocked shots (3,020) and games played (1,392), Duncan became the third player in franchise history with his jersey retired to be elected in April to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Duncan ranks as just the third player in NBA history to win 1,000 career regular-season games, with just Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish capturing more victories over the span of their careers.

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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