RC Buford Rumors
Do you feel confident that the team has been able to maintain flexibility without mortgaging the future? Gregg Popovich: “R.C. and his group have always done a great job of doing things, both frugally and with class. If money needs to be spent, it’s spent. But it’s never done unwisely. We’ve never put the organization in a situation where they’re paying a ridiculous amount of money for no value. My complete faith and trust in R.C. is never going to change, because of the track record he has, thinking not just for the next year and the next two years, but the next three years, the next seven years, that type of thing.”
Dan McCarney: An example of R.C. Buford’s fastidiousness: He uses the eñe in text messages. Most people I know can’t even be bothered to type out “you.”
As an illustration of the depth of the Spurs’ process, Buford explained how the team adjusted to the data and improved their defense after slipping to 11th in defensive rating in 2011-12: “I think we were valuing some things that weren’t nearly as important as what the data showed. We learned from the Celtics on defensive rebounding. While they were really high in defensive efficiency, they weren’t very high in defensive rebounding. It made us question, ‘Is that really where we should be paying attention?’ Those were discussions that were then brought to Pop from our coaches and from our analytics team. Some great discussions came from that that then led us to re-evaluate what’s important for us.”
Masai Ujiri: I reached out to a couple of people who know Danny well. Both have been great mentors for me. R.C. Buford is the GM of the San Antonio Spurs. He was one of the first NBA executives to come to our Basketball Without Borders camps a decade ago. That same year, he adopted a young man from Cameroon. Wayne Embry is an adviser for our team. Forty years ago, he was the first African-American GM of an NBA team. Both of these men, whom I trust so much, are close to Danny. They have nothing but great things to say about him. The league is a small world. Other people I’ve spoken to who know Danny well say that he has never done anything they’ve seen to suggest he holds racist views.
When asked about the post-Duncan and Popovich era, Buford said, “It will be numbing and challenging. Those are the people whom we’ve come to work with and battle with.” The course of the organization changed in 1997 when the Spurs, with the fourth-best chance to win the draft lottery, cruised past the Celtics and landed Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick. “The key has been getting Tim Duncan in the lottery and that didn’t have a damn thing to do with where we were scouting,” Buford said. “That rock was already turned over. Things changed in ’87 when David [Robinson] was drafted.”
Buford talked about the future of the Spurs without Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, although they are likely to stay together at least one more season. Buford, a former assistant coach under Larry Brown and lead scout, is preparing for life after Duncan and Popovich — whenever that comes. “The Spurs Way has been different over the course of time,” Buford said. “It’s been built to fit the strengths of our teams. [Popovich and I] grew up under Coach Brown, and Larry thinks there’s a wino on the street with a perfect out-of-bounds play. He’ll listen to anybody. And I think we grew up under that burden.”