Clash Of The Coaching Titans?



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The list of current coaches with an NBA championship on their resume is a short one.

Half of that crew will be working the sidelines tonight in Boston, where Erik Spoelstra‘s streaking Miami Heat (22 straight wins and counting) will take on Doc Rivers and his never-say-die Celtics at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Have two coaches anywhere done a better job this season, under their own set of unique circumstances?

Heat upcoming schedule
Day Date Loc. Opponent Time (ET) TV
Mon. 3/18 @ Boston 8 p.m. ESPN
Wed. 3/20 @ Cleveland 7 p.m. League Pass
Fri. 3/22 vs. Detroit 7:30 p.m. League Pass
Sun. 3/24 vs. Charlotte 6 p.m. League Pass
Mon. 3/25 @ Orlando 7 p.m. League Pass
Wed. 3/27 @ Chicago 8 p.m. ESPN
Fri. 3/29 @ New Orleans 8 p.m. League Pass
Sun. 3/31 @ San Antonio 7 p.m. NBA TV

No one questions the coaching abilities or prowess of Rivers, whose ability to manage egos, inspire and scheme with the best of them has pushed him to the top of the coaching heap. Rivers is either right next to (or right behind) San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and ahead of Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle (the fourth member of the championship coaching short list).

The Celtics are 16-6 since All-Star point guard and catalyst Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending ACL injury. While others were ready to write the Celtics off, Rivers warned that his team should not be dismissed so easily. And he was right, bolstering his credibility as one of the best of the very best in his field.

Of the four coaches on that short list, Spoelstra is the only one that wouldn’t garner any first place votes for Coach of the Year. For whatever reason, he seems to be the only lacking universal respect. And it makes no sense, given all that he’s accomplished in such a short period of time. His teams before LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces averaged 45 wins a season, respectable for any coach, let alone a first-time one.

It’s extremely difficult to coach superstars and what has always been a superstar-driven league. Spoelstra had a rocky start, from the infamous shoulder to the chest James laid on him two years ago to the back-and-forth with Wade to his time spent on the hot seat the summer after the Heat fell to Carlisle’s Mavericks in The Finals loss two years ago.

Plenty of folks were calling for Heat boss Pat Riley to come down from the luxury suite and replace his protegé throughout the course of his first two seasons with the Big 3.

Spoelstra, to his credit, persevered through it all, holding steady to his beliefs in the advanced metrics he studies relentlessly and the respect and admiration of his entire locker room. He’s a coach who knows who he is and understands exactly what he brings to the mix for a team made up of so many different ingredients.

ESPN analyst and Hall of Fame Lakers point guard Magic Johnson has nothing but praise for the job Spoelstra has done.

“The Heat have been awesome on defense and on offense,” Johnson said on the air last week. “Coach Spoelstra is pulling out all the stops making sure this team is focused and ready. He should probably be Coach of the Year. And then, when I think about the time of the year they are doing it, it’s the right time. They are really getting ready for playoff basketball and they sent a message to everybody. They beat the Knicks when they had to beat the Knicks. They just beat the Pacers when they had to beat the Pacers.”

They’ve beaten everyone in their path when they had to recently. This 22-game win streak is the culmination of a process Spoelstra studies tirelessly, a complex grind that makes perfect sense to a man completely immersed in its mechanics.

“We have been managing our games very intelligently,” Spoelstra said. “Last month, we were very proactive in getting our guys rest. They have been doing their jobs in keeping their bodies ready and we are not forgetting about our preparation. We want to continue to get better. Guys are playing career low minutes and we are fortunate for that.”

Spoelstra has not only become a master at managing his superstars, he’s learned how to cultivate roles and personalities up and down the roster. That’s critical for any team set on the complete domination we’ve seen from the Heat.

“There are guys that are not even breaking the rotation right now that are proven and have to be in the right mindset, which they do,” Spoelstra said. “But when you put together a veteran team like this, you must have the right guys. If you don’t and guys are unhappy with the roles then your versatility and your depth doesn’t mean anything.”

The Heat have all the ingredients needed to chase whatever history they desire. They have the superstar talent, the depth, the versatility and understanding of what’s at stake every night as well as the bigger picture.

They also an elite coach in Spoelstra to go along with all that.

Sooner or later, someone will actually give him credit, too.

Because to date there are only two coaches in this current Big 3 era to see the process through all the way to The Finals and into that championship parade.

Like I said, these elite lists tend to be short … only Doc Rivers and Erik Spoelstra make the cut on this one.

69 Comments

  1. Doc definitely top 3 coach-remember it only took him 1 year to get the big 3 to be humble & gel then get a ring in their 1st year together coming from the worst record in league the year before. spo couldn’t do that in first year of having 3 or more multi all stars & neither has any other coach. Ainge, Doc, & Celts did the biggest 1year to year turnaround in nba history period-NUFF SAID!
    CELTICS-HORAAH-UBUNTU!!!

  2. Remember that a couple years ago spo asked Doc Rivers for tips @ some coaching gathering on how to coach a multi all star team-so who’s the better coach-NUFF SAID!!!
    CELTICS-HORAAH-UBUNTU!!!

  3. jel02 says:

    Coach of the year, Coach Spo…

  4. Jack says:

    a bunch of haters here, ask the Arrison Family why they choose SPO, its not your business anyway to scrutinise or even degrade one’s ability, people like Joe, aaron above all the post are wannabe coach, an idiot in basketball, or might erik ask you to play against him,..i wonder if you can beat him,..haha haters,..well see u all haters in the FInals!!

  5. Sonics 4 Life says:

    Spoelstra’s job is to make sure the other guys on the roster don’t lose the game and make Lebron look bad.

  6. HAHAHAHAH! KOBE IS PATHETIC! HE CAN’T CARRY THE TEAM WITHOUT BIG MEN..HE WON 5 CHAMPIONSHIP BECAUSE OF SHAQ, PAU AND BYNUM.. ANYWAY COACH SPO IS A GREAT COACH, YOU KNOW Y?BECAUSE 2012 CHAMPIONSHIP IS VERY MEMORABLE ESPECIALLY IN LBJ’S RECORD.. BECAUSE OF THE GREAT COACHING BY SPO, THE HEAT BECAME THE MOST UNSTOPPABLE TEAM TODAY..COACH SPO IS A SIMPLY BUT VERY INTELLIGENT COACH.. HIS TEAM TRUSTED HIM A LOT THAT’S WHY THEY ARE NOW ENJOYING THE SPOTLIGHT.. THEY DESERVED IT.. LET’S GO HEAT!

  7. dwade3 says:

    hey guys, can a team can win without a coach.. so, lets praise for their job on giving wins with each team… proud of coach spo for whatever he’s done with the team.. go heat…

  8. This bruno from BORAT says:

    @ nonoy first of all… Ever since Coach Spo becomes the HEAT coach… They never miss a playoffs… That’s a good thing… 2nd, Dwade had nobody that can literally help him… Check 2009 STATS, Dwade alone produce everything on HEAT….Here’s Dwade stats of 2009 37.3PPG, 6.2rebs 9.0Ast 2.6Stl 1.7Blk He’s doing it alone…. He gets rob on his MVP season… even the lakers have a difficult season against him… and that’s Whole 2009 NBA Champs Lakers vs DWADE….. Did kobe win anything before Pau came along??? None either… He Cried and demands to get traded if they didn’t give him an allstar team mate…..

  9. ELISEO SORIANO OLDPATH says:

    A REAL CLOSE FIGHT…
    MIAMI ALL DAY….
    –DANIEL RAZON OLDPATH

  10. nonoy says:

    i have a question. if coach spo a really good coach how come he as not successful when it was only wade on the line up?

  11. Celticsallday says:

    Doc rivers is not the most overrated coach out of the 4 who are you to say that

  12. I think Spoelstra exposes the Miami team when he changes four starters and leave LB playing too long with four bench players. He does that every game with the replacements starting at the middle of first quarter; this practice does not permit the Heat to build up a reasonable lead in the first half, and generally leads the game to a close score until the start of the fourth quarter.
    He should never ,I repeat never, bench more than just one of the BIG 3 at a time.If he would’ve used this practice, the Heat would’ve had much easier wins up until now in this season. If he doesn’t change his procedure the Heat will doubtfully win the championship, and if it does it will be via “the extremelly hard way”

  13. savvas83 says:

    With Lebron, Wade, a great multi-position defender like Battier plus James and Wade who are outstanding defenders, even my mom who has no idea about basketball, will have this streak. Ask every GM in this league who would you like to coach your team? They will respond Popovic, Rivers, Karl, Thibodeau, Hollins. No one will respond Spoelstra.

  14. Basil says:

    Doc rivers is by far the most overrated of all four coaches. his .557 winning percentage is nothing to brag compared to the greats about and before the big three came about he was viewed as an average coach. Im not saying he is a bad coach but when Spoelstra took over the heat they were the worst team in the league. I rememebr the Celtics had good teams from 2001-2002 and the 2002 and 2003 season. No other coaches had an emotional leader like KG to depend on as well. Agian im not saying doc is a bad coach but he is a not a top 3 coach. (Pop, Spo, Thibs, Brooks, Karl, maybe Adelman and soon in the future Vogel). this whole “ring” argument is vastly overrated cause if your going to say doc was instrumental in the Celtics going 62-20 then he was instrumental in them going 33-49 and 24-58 the two years prior the big three. Im not saying Carlisle is better than doc but no one imo is clamoring as Carlisle as a top 5 coach.

  15. LebronKingOfNba says:

    all this things can be summed up to… DISCRIMINATION! IGNORANCE! MAJORITY WINS! of the public. this is the truth in the world we live in(hope in mars it will change loooool)

  16. Micah says:

    The Celtic’s have a history of overcoming adversity, on & off the court.

  17. shingirai chipara says:

    heat will beat the celts tonite… no question…

  18. Vanessa says:

    The Heat players and Coach Spo have the best chemistry in the NBA at this time. What you do of-court is as important as what you do on-court. The coach has improved tremendously and he deserves every credit possible (remember you MUST crawl before you walk). People are just jealous because they don’t like to see others succeed. Go HEAT!

  19. miguel says:

    good job done from coach spoelstra, coach of the year candidate right there

  20. Coach Jenkins says:

    coach Spoelstra has become an elite coach, he makes his team together and makes them better as a player too

  21. Sebastian says:

    where is Miller ? he gave everything on team last year.

  22. sirc says:

    All thing has its end and the lost will come but what the player them selves said this is only the regular season and the main goal is to win the CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY nothing less….

  23. mo says:

    i dont understand why Erik Spoelstra is considered a good coach he has 2 of the best players in the game and chris bosh ray ray the bird man. u have to be a terrible coach if your not doing good with them he is not a good one take any coach from any team miami would still be atop the league you put james wade and bosh together for 3 yrs they will eventually learn how to play well with each other no matter the coach

  24. noyb says:

    I still don’t think Erik Spoelstra is a very good coach. He simply has a player with a full head of steam!

  25. Markme says:

    If spoelstra will be the team coach of the Philippine team he can bring more pride to the philippines

  26. Heat Fan says:

    There is only one thing stopping the Heat going 82-0: Spoelstra.

    Lebron and Wade are carrying a franchise; they are the leadership. I’m not saying Spoelstra doesn’t do a good job, he’s just not a good coach. He is simply the puppet and James/Wade the Puppet Masters.

    Put it another way: if Spoelstra was coaching the Celts and Rondo went down, there’s no way they’d see more than 10 wins for the rest of the season. Rivers, Karl, Thibs, Popovich… these guys are great coaches. Spoelstra is a caretaker.

  27. aaron says:

    hahaha anyone can coach the heat and lead them to 21 straight if they got lebron and d-wade…gimme a break

  28. Heat030634 says:

    If the Miami Heat will win more championships then that’s the time Spoelstra will be recognized as an Elite coach.
    I’m impressed on how good he manage the team right now and he just need to keep it up.
    If Miami will win over Boston today, that will be a good start. They might also beat the best streak and Spoelstra will be part of that record-breaking history.
    The team trust Spoelstra that’s why they are showing their best. The game results will prove that.
    We can absolutely notice if there is a problem with the coach or with the superstars.
    So for me, Spoelstra is getting better and no doubt he can be one of the best coach in the future and will gain everybody’s respect.

  29. jake s says:

    Without Lebron James, Heat would be playing like Nets. Anyone that wants to take a stab at that please do so. Do not credit Spoelstra. Give credit where it is due, and the credit belongs with the King and his best wingman, Shane Battier. I think the writers just needed to find a different headline for this (long) series of articles.

  30. Big Al says:

    Don’t lose, Heat. Remember, those guys in green lost to Charlotte this season, twice (what a joke!).

    • NHbleedsGREEN says:

      And it was a joke how they played against us last time
      WITHOUT THE EAST STARTING POINT GUARD!!

  31. QV says:

    This idea that denver doesn’t have any star power has got to go. Iggy isn’t Lebron but who is? he’s an elite defender and one of the most verstile 3’s in the league. Ty Lawson is an immerging PG and one of the quickest in the league. The Manimal? Javale McGee is an elite shot blocker, not to mention they have an incredible bench. They have plenty of talent. Karl is a great coach but their are lots of reasons Denver is good.

  32. joe says:

    Come on…I could coach this team and get the same results. Ít´s not thanks to Spoeltra. How many times did we see Chris Bosh taking (and of course missing) the decisive three point last seasons, or that kind of play…? Seriously, where´s the greatness when it´s superstars joining others? They won a title, well sorry, but no surprise. It wasn´t by building a team over the years, drafting, getting better. This team won´t be remembered even if they win 8 titles, these players are in a way “buying their titles”.

  33. ballman says:

    not so sure the celtics could get lucky

  34. Mitchel Noyes says:

    Celtics got this one!

  35. Daniel says:

    When he’s done in the heat, or when he doesnt have players like lebron or wade we will see.

  36. jrake says:

    I may not be a Heat fan but I AM PROUD TO SAY THAT I AM PINOY!

    GO ERICK SPOELSTRA!

  37. Rob says:

    Go Heart for 23 and more baby!!!
    I am lucky enough that I moved to Miami when the Miami Heat franchise was born and I have never moved out since…

  38. David Groeneveld says:

    In the matter of Erik Spoelstra being an elite coach, I don’t feel one can really make a call on that at the end of the day Lebron took the cavaliers to 60+ win seasons and then when he left, the cavaliers quickly plummeted to a bottom of the barrel team. So is Spoeltra an elite coach or does he possibly have one of the greatest surplus of talent in the game right now. At the end of the day in the fourth quarter is it spoelstras genius that wins the games or is it the over poWering 1 on 1 math cups that the Heat have over all teams. That being said, in my opinion the art the Spoelstra is elite in is managing the talent, keeping the egos in check and rotating his lineups so that all of his elite athletes feel elite and important. Elite coach, not yet….

    • Bruno says:

      Did Phil Jackson not have Jordan/Pippen, Kobe/Shaq? Did Riley not have Kareem/Magic/Worthy? I can basically go on. No elite coach can win championships without great players.

    • 16going417 says:

      You make valid points and maybe 1 championship does not make an elite coach. But remember even with Lebron’s 60+ wins with the Cavs he did not win a championship. Also, the Miami Heat was set in 2011 with the same coach and the same line ups and THEY did not get the job done either.

      So, what changed? Maybe all the things you mention such as managing the talent, keeping the egos in check and rotating his lineups so that all of his elite athletes feel elite and important. In my opinion a coach is VERY important to the success and failure of a team. I’m a Lakers fan and believe the Lakers are not better because of the coach. So, if I’m going to blame the coach for the Lakers misfortune I have to praise the Miami coach for their success.

      So Elite coach?? I think so……….. Otherwise Lebron would have won in Cleveland and his first year in Miami on talent alone.

    • KunJayMaster says:

      Oh please stop it..get real, Phil Jackson wouldn’t be the “legendary coach” everybody says he is if it hadn’t been for having the fortunate luck of coaching Michael Jordan and Pippen, and then go Lakers and have Shaq and Kobe? Or Pat Riley wouldn’t have the status he has today if it wasn’t for Magic and Kareem. At the end of the day those coaches are considered legendary because they were in the fortunate situation of coaching the bests ever. Do you think Phil Jackson would have that many championships coaching a team like the Wizards or the Bobcats?

      • minaku says:

        how bout the 03-04 detroit Pistons of Larry Brown

      • wingardT says:

        i think you’re forgetting Larry Brown and his 2003-04 Pistons. he did otherwise, became a legend as u called it by winning the championship without a “superstar” against LA ‘s Kobe and shaq.

  39. ELISEO SORIANO OLDPATH says:

    PHILIPPINES are cheering for MIAMI HEAT…
    CHAMPIONS REPEAT…
    PROUD OF FELLOW FILIPINO ERIK SPOELSTRA….
    –DANIEL RAZON OLDPATH

  40. Dr. O'Neal says:

    @Charles, it’s because 22>11

  41. W/E says:

    Clash of the MIDGETS more likely.

  42. ELISEO SORIANO OLDPATH says:

    GO HEAT… We Love You from Philippines!!!!

  43. Florida says:

    As a Miami Heat fan, I always admire Doc Rivers. I would not have any doubt to get multiple championship, if Doc was our coach here in Miami.

  44. Charles Murray says:

    You missed it. It is much more difficult to have an 11 game winning streak without any superstars and beat all teams including Oka 2x, SA, NY, GS 3x, Bos, Clips 3x, LA 3x, Mem 3x, with the third youngest team and perhaps end up 3rd in the much tougher western conference. What gives? Why doesn’t Karl get his credit?

    • dattebayo says:

      I think Karl is a terrific coach and I hope Denver keeps on climbing in the rankings and gets that 3rd seed. However, the Nuggets currently have an 11 game win streak (@CHA, LAL, @POR, OKC, ATL, @SAC, LAC, MIN, @PHO, NYK, MEM) and quite frankly, besides OKC and MEM, those were all must win games against lesser opponents. Only 6 playoff teams, 1 back-to-back and only 4 road games.

      The Heat also played a lot of lesser teams, but 22 trumps 11, because they had 10 road games, 5 back-to-backs (another today) and 11 playoff teams. That’s just a lot harder to me.

    • berry says:

      because he’s not coaching la or miami? you actually answered your own question. because he’s coaching a team “without any superstars”

    • zak says:

      “The list of current coaches with an NBA championship on their resume is a short one.”

  45. rank says:

    no love for popovich?

    • Petrus says:

      i like Pop, he always get the best of his players

    • Elven says:

      Coach Pop is so good, he doesn’t need to many superstar to win.

    • Imad Akel says:

      You think it’s easy coaching a high profile team with expectations of a championship before the team plays their first game together? Think again.
      As great as Popovich and Jackson were, they never played with that kind of pressure because they were given time to build a team before breaking the ice with that first championship. Doc rivers is the only one i can think of that has played under such high expectations, but even Rivers was already a recognized coach before he took on the Celtics Big 3 for the first time. So despite many great coaches having lived up to high expectations, really NO COACH has ever done it while under as much pressure as Spoelstra was under.
      And it’s only fitting that Spoelstra be given such an award (most successful pressured coach), because the best player on his team can receive a similar award (most successful pressured player),

  46. ELISEO SORIANO says:

    MIAMI will be Champion again this year…

    Erik Spo is an Elite Coach now…
    We are Proud of You fellow Filipino…
    -Daniel Razon Oldpath

    • Patrick Gorospe says:

      Not all dude. I like him as a coach but I don’t like his team. Celtics all day!

  47. thisiseku says:

    Miami will blow out the Celtics tonight.

    • celticswillactually says:

      Ah, no you my friend are in for your first loss tonight in a while.

      • old man says:

        it will be a hard fight.miami will prevail.erik is a good coach,it is certain now.

      • r says:

        that simply isn’t true. miami has been facing “that one loss” looming over their heads for the last 12 games. the celtics are no different. miami will dominate them harder than any team we’ve seen them face this season.

      • Pete says:

        Good coach lol

        Give any coach a team with Bosh, Wade and Lebron and anything less then excellence would be a dissapointment.

    • NHbleedsGREEN says:

      I could coach the Heat to a ring this year.Duh.

      • BrianSchiffeR says:

        Why don’t you Coach the Lakers then and see what happen. Even an experienced coach Mike D’Antony is having a hard time and you talk like you’ve accomplished anything and you’ve tried this kind of a job. I bet you can’t even bet me in a chess match.