Best of 2020: Tim Duncan, University of New Orleans Athletic Director

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning at and this is the Work In Sports podcast -- where we are celebrating our best sports industry interviews of 2020.

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about perspective. We all grow up in different conditions, different families, different stresses, and challenges...and it is this foundational time of our lives, our youth, that gives us our first dose of perspective. 

Growing up in, I guess I would say, a lower-middle-class home in Massachusetts...pretty rural, parents divorced, predominantly white neighborhood, gives me a totally different experience than some rich kid in Beverly Hills, or some poor kid anywhere in America. Or some kid who grew up with abusive parents, or someone who was a victim of crime early in life. 

We may see the same things through very different lenses because of our foundational perspectives. What we see and experience alters the way we move forward through life.


Tim Duncan university of New Orleans athletic director


But perspectives are a fluid thing, they change as we go through life and expose ourselves to different people, cultures and situations. 

Living in a rough area of Atlanta for a few years changed the rural kid in me. I saw different things, and they challenged me to think differently. They challenged me to open my mind up to the struggle of others. To understand that not all kids played sports on the weekend and ate orange slices on the sidelines. That some kids struggled to get by, period.  

Working with different types of people in a corporate culture like CNN exposed me to different faiths, backgrounds, upbringings, educations… and overall different perspectives. 

I wonder, again this is where I probably spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating things like perspective, but I wonder, how much our perspectives alter our career choices, or who we are in the workplace. 

Your perspective and the upbringing you endured, steers you. 

I was asked recently how many people who work in sports, played sports in college or high school. 

I have no data, other than the anecdotal story of my life working in sports for the last 20 some odd years… but I’d say around 15% played in college and 90% played at least in high school. It is that perspective that gave us love. 

The competition, the teamwork, the grind, the community, the coachability -- you thrive on it all. If I hadn’t grown up playing every sport available… I probably wouldn’t have worked in this industry.  

Sports gets into your bloodstream. Not just playing, but being around it. The smell of a gym makes me think back to my youthful perspective. Hearing a certain song on the radio, makes me think of the drive to a game, or post-championship celebration.

It’s no wonder today’s guest circled back to sports. Tim Duncan was a division 1 basketball player at Memphis State, teammates with Penny Hardaway and a 2-time participant in the NCAA tournament. He was one of the elite competitors in the game, making it beyond those of us with only high school memories. 

For those of you who are confused… Yes there are at least two people in the world named Tim Duncan who played high-level basketball...but this is not that Tim Duncan. 

For our Tim Duncan, after graduating and starting a successful career in marketing, the sports world beckoned. And because his perspective was on the court, and in the stands and at the arena…  the jump back in was natural.

Over the last decade plus he’s made a name for himself in college athletes, and just last year was named Athletic Director of the University of New Orleans. It is my honor to have him on the show this week… here’s Tim Duncan…

By Brian Clapp | December 16, 2020
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