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.”
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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.”
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.”
“I thought that Jason Kidd being there, being the mentally tough person that he is and with his skills, would be the greatest education for Tony Parker,” Popovich told the New York Times. “And Tony can go play the 2; he was a scoring guard, anyway. As Jason gets older, let him move over to the 2; let Tony take 1. Brilliant, brilliant. Let’s go get this thing done.” “Tony did not love that idea at all,” he said. “We still tried to do it. And Jason didn’t come.”
Popovich was acutely aware the Spurs needed to retool around their other tower, the dominant Duncan. But he didn’t think Parker was the answer. Parker had already worked out for the Spurs, jet-lagged and tired after arriving from France. Popovich dismissed the workout and the player, labeling Parker soft and “just another little skinny guy.” R.C. Buford, Popovich’s assistant general manager, had watched Parker in Indianapolis. The Americans could not bottle him up.
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During the presentation of the Larry O’Brien trophy, the under-the-radar owner in typical fashion quickly turned the spotlight away from himself to coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford. “They say that success starts at the top,” ABC’s Stuart Scott said to Holt. “If that’s the truth, what’s your secret?” “My secret,” Holt said, “is these guys behind me: coach Pop and R.C. Buford. That’s my secret. It doesn’t start at the top; it starts with them.”
“We had to get over it,” Buford said. “It wasn’t going away until we looked it in the eye and recognized what we had to do – Pop and me included. We wanted to help pull Tim and Manu and Tony across the finish line one more time, for everything they had done and sacrificed and committed here. We were 30 seconds away. And we didn’t do it. “I think we all wondered if we could get over it – until we got to training camp. Pop turned on, and challenged the mentality of our group and we faced the reality of last year. We faced the reality of the mistakes that we made; the things that didn’t allow us to finish the job. Pop didn’t let anybody hide from it. We all recognized that we could’ve been better, that we would have to be better. “And then, from there, he proceeded to build this team up. He rebuilt the habits so that this wouldn’t happen again.”
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“It was hard for all of us, but Pop in particular,” Buford told Yahoo Sports late Sunday, late in the Spurs dynasty, late in one of the greatest stories basketball has ever witnessed. Five championships now, and Buford confessed he had never been so moved, so overwhelmed, so fulfilled. The Spurs won this championship going away, four games to one over the two-time defending champion Heat, and yet they had never been so driven to exhaustion, so spiritually spent in the pursuit of redemption.
Was there someone who saw tape on Kawhi and said, ‘We have to have this guy?’” RC Buford: “We don’t do this individually. Except for (Sam) Presti picking Parker, this has been a group thing. George was important to our group. From a roster-management standpoint, we felt it was the right thing to do. But we’d be foolish to say we knew Kawhi would be who he is today.”
Was there ever a moment it looked like breaking up the Big Three was the best option? “There were times that other people said we should be breaking it up. But what’s the alternative? Our best alternative was to keep the group together. There were some givens. I don’t think we were going to trade Tim Duncan, and maybe others. With that being the case, assuming that wasn’t going to happen, what were you going to do? Our best solution to to keep the group together, to meet their expectations. I don’t think we really worry about anybody else’s expectations except our group’s, and the commitment we have to them.”
Hill (drafted 26th in 2008 by the Spurs) spent his first three seasons in San Antonio and carved out a significant role. He played well enough that he was seen as a possible replacement for Parker, yet then found himself serving a much different purpose when he netted the Spurs this two-way terror from San Diego State in Leonard. As Buford shared, there was serious concern that stemmed from Popovich on down. “It felt like we were going to get our ass chewed because we just traded the coach’s favorite player,” Buford said with a laugh. “Tim, Tony and Manu, those guys had a really strong alignment with George. They’d been through a lot together, and there was concern for them, not only that they were losing a great friend but also a great teammate. So the trust that that group allowed us to make that move — because we don’t do that without including them. That trust was vital to them saying, ‘OK, we don’t like this, but we’ll frickin’ see.’ ”
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Spurs general manager R.C. Buford on Tuesday denied published reports indicating the Spurs will add highly regarded European coach Ettore Messina to Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff. “Is someone leaving our staff that I don’t know about?” Buford said when asked about the Messina report. “We have not had one conversation with anyone about a coaching position for next season.”
Q: Speaking of Austin Daye, what are your thoughts on him? Does he fit long-term or is it just something right now — an experiment? RC Buford: I don’t know how you know whether he fits long-term. His body of work for us to evaluate is not great, but I think that parts of his game, that he does well, can fit the way we play. We haven’t had a lot of practice time, and he hasn’t had a lot of game time, so it’s almost impossible to say what his role is other then to say: I think he has an opportunity for the future. He’s under contract for next year and we’ll see what happens. (The time between) now and the end of the summer will have a big impact on his ability to create a role.
Q: Gregg Popovich said recently that Nando De Colo requested a trade earlier in the season. Were you exploring a trade all season, or did the deal with Toronto (traded Austin Daye to the Spurs for De Colo last month) just pop up last minute? RC Buford: I mean we looked for opportunities to help our team. There were times when Nando was playing a significant role that made it more difficult than other times because of injuries and such, so when opportunities became available that allowed us to help Nando accomplish his goals and give us an opportunity to look at Austin and see if he might be able to fit; I mean, often times things happen closer to the deadline than most, but it doesn’t mean that you were pursing it any harder or any less hard earlier than that. It’s just, people tend dance toward the deadline.