Filipino-American Erik Spoelstra is one of the top coaches in the NBA. Yes, you may think I’m crazy but he is and he has proven that.
A lot of fans, critics, players, and media don’t respect Spoelstra as much as they should, mainly because they don’t know how much of an impact he has on the Miami Heat organization. He’s young, smart, and knows the game. He cares about his players, wants them to become great athletes, and he’s proven that.
Spoelstra graduated from the University of Portland with a degree in communications. He was a basketball player and was one of the Pilots’ top players. Spoelstra was the starting point guard for four years and was named the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year. Like many coaches, he was a player so he can relate in some way to his athletes. After he graduated he spent two years as a player and a coach for Tus Herten which is a German professional team.
So how in the world did Spoelstra become part of the Miami Heat?
Spoelstra was initially hired as the video coordinator for the Heat. He then was promoted to assistant coach/video coordinator, then to assistant coach/advance scout and assistant coach/director of scouting before finally obtaining the head coaching position. He served 7 seasons as the coach/director of scouting, and had the primary role of developing game plans for upcoming opponents.
It’s proven that Spoelstra knows what he’s doing. Why else would he get promoted to several positions and have all various roles for the Heat organization. During these years he was being shaped and molded into becoming one of the top coaches in the NBA. Pat Riley saw something that a lot of people didn’t see. According to NBA.com, Spoelstra helped design and integrate a proprietary statistical database and scouting software for the Heat. Under Spoelstra, the Heat continue to embrace the use of technology and continues to use the state-of-the-art statistical software to evaluate team productivity, individual player productivity and trends for both the Heat and the team’s opponents. That use of technology as a teaching tool also included putting the team’s video playbook on iPads for his players.
Spoelstra was Pat Riley’s first and only choice to be his replacement. That says a lot. Spoelstra, only 38 at the time, became head coach in 2008. Since Riley’s decision to make him head coach, the Heat have gone to the playoffs every season while making it to the NBA Finals for the last 3 years in a row.
Even with all of his success, some people still say it’s the players not the coach. People think LeBron James and Dwyane Wade just use their talents every year to win championships and don’t need a coach to actually draw up plays, motivate, study the other team, and critique his own team.
One thing I like about Spoelstra is he isn’t afraid to make risky moves. He draws up plays at the end of the game that set up other players to take the game winner rather than LeBron all the time. I’ve seen him draw up plays where he knows LeBron most likely will be double teamed so he’ll give Mario Chalmers or Wade the opportunity to take the game winning shot. He has faith in his team, not just in one player. In the Finals this year, game 6, he drew up a play that resulted in Chris Bosh being in great position to block that shot to end a game that the Heat should’ve lost.
To be so young, he’s had the foundation to make risky moves and be able to back them up. He’s a smart young coach and could possibly go down as one of the best of this generation. That speaks volume but his statistics don’t lie. Do you think you could coach LeBron, Wade, and Bosh to back to back championships? It’s not as easy as it looks. Having 3 big egos on the team probably isn’t easy to coach and it’s evident that it was rocky the first year they were together. For Spoelstra to figure out a way to work these 3 guys together is proof of how good he is.