The great partnership between Miami Heat president Pat Riley and the team’s head coach, Erik Spoelstra, has always been well-documented. It’s evident with Riley choosing Spoelstra to be his successor as head coach after retiring for good in 2008.
The results are have been pretty solid and there’s a reason why they are two of the longest-tenured figures in their respective fields across the NBA.
In their own ways, they have each helped built all of the Heat’s eras over the last 25 years, from putting the Heat on the map, building championship squads, and strongly establishing that vaunted ‘Heat culture.’ All that happened with Riley as coach and executive, and Spo as video coordinator, scout, assistant coach, and head coach.
The trust and respect between both individuals was on display again yesterday as Riley heaped praises and also delivered a bold statement about his longtime colleague’s future.
It’s great to see Riley directing all the credit to the coach. Spo did a great job leading his staff and players throughout the season, especially during the tough circumstances of the restart. The bubble provided a great physical and mental test to every team in attendance, and no one arguably exceeded expectations more than the Heat did.
Was Spoelstra the real Coach of the Year?
Spo went up against head coaches who had a similarly great campaigns, particularly the winner, Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors, but he did have a solid argument for the award. Spo helped transform the Heat from a subpar playoff team into an official East title contender.
Consider the jump in the pecking order too. Heading into the 2019-20 season, the Heat had very few eyeballs in them and were regarded as a bottom-seeded playoff squad at best, even after acquiring All-Star Jimmy Butler. Then, a few weeks into the season, they’ve become one of the most well-rounded and unselfish teams in the league.
Butler, co-All-Star Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, unknown second-year guard Duncan Robinson, and rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn emerged as a tough-minded, versatile core, while midseason acquisitions Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala further boosted what the original group established.
Is Spoelstra a future Hall-of-Fame coach?
It may be a bit early to tell. Spo may need a couple of more strong seasons to solidify his argument. However, his resume can be pitted against the some of his best counterparts, some of which are supposedly HOF-worthy.
I’ll quickly list his key accomplishments and I’ll let you decide: As the Heat head coach, Spo has a 567-392 overall regular season record, and 85-54 overall playoff record. He’s been named Coach of the Month eight times, went to the playoffs nine out of 12 seasons, won the Eastern Conference title five times (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2020), and won the championship twice (2012 and 2013).
Here’s one key stat that may help Spo’s HOF campaign – let’s just hope he can maintain it. His current .591 regular season winning percentage is higher than many coaches who are already in there, most notably Don Nelson, who has zero championships as a coach, Larry Brown, Rudy Tomjanovich, and Bill Fitch.