Tim Duncan Gets First NBA Coaching Win as Gregg Popovich Sits Out

The Spurs legend led his team to 104-103 win over the Hornets

Tim Duncan coaching
Tim Duncan coaches during his first NBA win for the San Antonio Spurs.
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Despite only finding out he would be coaching San Antonio on the morning of their game against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday, Tim Duncan led the Spurs to victory, notching his first NBA coaching win in the process. San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich missed the game due to “personal business,” slotting Duncan into what he called “the big-boy chair” in his first season as an assistant coach for the only team he suited up for during his playing career.

Speaking to reporters after, Duncan credited his fellow assistant coaches for helping ease the situation:

We’ve got [Spurs assistants] Becky [Hammon] and Will [Hardy] and Mitch [Johnson]. Mitch prepped the game for us, Becky and Will were making all the calls, and I was the only one just standing there screaming at people — nonsensical stuff. So we did it coach by committee, and it could’ve been any one of us up there and we would’ve done exactly the same stuff.

Duncan didn’t just coast in his first game as acting head coach, though: early in the fourth quarter, he challenged a charge call against San Antonio’s Derrick White, albeit unsuccessfully. The Hornets definitely didn’t take it easy on the first-timer, jumping out to a 17-point lead early and later closing a fourth-quarter gap before the Spurs pulled out a 104-103 win.

Though Duncan was the acting coach on the night, the win will still go on Popovich’s record, per NBA rules. The same scenario played out when Luke Walton took over for Steve Kerr during Golden State’s 2015-2016 season.

And though this was Duncan’s first full game as an acting head coach, he performed the role earlier this season: Popovich was ejected from a November 16 game against Portland, pushing Duncan into the head coach role for the rest of the game, which the Spurs lost.

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