Spoelstra’s Share Of Miami’s Success Easier To See Than Quantify

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Through the use of NBA.com’s Advanced Stats machinery, in conjunction with the finest analytical tools both currently in use throughout the league and yet to be conjured in the eventual big brain of Daryl Morey’s someday great-grandchild we can say unequivocally that coach Erik Spoelstra contributed 5.279 victories to the Miami Heat’s recent, remarkable 27-game winning streak.

If only.

There’s no reliable way to know precisely what Spoelstra’s contribution was to the streak, the second-longest in NBA history. In that way, it’s not unlike the Heat’s championship last June or their consecutive trips to The Finals. Considering LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hardly needed a general manager to pull off their SuperFriends scheme, it’s tempting for people to presume they might not need much of a head coach, either.

How hard can it be? Miami’s roster boasts the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, certain to be validated again this spring with his fourth Maurice Podoloff trophy. It has, in All-Stars Wade and Bosh, another top 10 and top 20 player. And the Heat have become a recruit-yourself destination for quality veterans such as Shane Battier and Ray Allen eager to win rings.

But consider how far Spoelstra has come from the death watch of two seasons ago, when a five-game losing streak, a 9-8 start and a timeout bump on the court with James had everyone predicting his demise in days, if not hours. Even a year ago – on the heels of a two-year, $6 million contract extension through 2013-14 – speculation simmered that anything short of a championship might bring a change.

And now? None of that. Quite the opposite, in fact, to the point that Spoelstra – with a 250-133 mark and, counting this season, with five trips to the playoffs – would be well within his rights to blow cigar smoke at his critics like Red Auerbach or give that self-satisfied Phil Jackson/Cheshire Cat smile while pointing above to various scoreboards.

Instead, he grinds like the video coordinator he once was. He plugs along. And he proves to be of no help whatsoever in attributing his share of the credit for what Miami is doing. Invariably he’ll lapse into his preferred brand of group speak. “I think the untold story about this group was the willingness of professional athletes to sacrifice for something greater,” Spoelstra said the other night in Chicago. “Virtually everybody on our roster had to sacrifice something financially and, in today’s day and age, you just don’t see that very often. … And save for LeBron, virtually everybody else on our roster in a perfect world would have a bigger role. But they sacrificed to make this thing happen – sacrificing to less minutes, less opportunities, less shots, whatever – and I think that’s pretty remarkable.”

Doesn’t scratch the Spoelstra surface, though. For that, you’re better off seeking exhibits and deposing witnesses. Such as Zach Lowe‘s recent splendid read on the Heat’s evolution into the Swiss watch-slash-monster-truck of NBA offenses:

These Heat look almost nothing like the 2010-11 version that melted away against Dallas in the Finals, and they don’t even look much like the team that took the floor for the bulk of their championship campaign last season. The Heat, more than anything else, are a story of slow and fitful evolution — a reaffirmation that the regular season really does matter, and that true basketball chemistry is a fragile thing that almost always requires patience, time, sacrifice, and deep knowledge of teammates.1

The Heat have almost totally reinvented their offense over those three seasons, and in the process they’ve done something very rare: taken a good offense and transformed it into something almost historically great.

That at least starts with Spoelstra, young enough yet wise enough to know what he doesn’t know. So says David Fizdale, the Heat assistant who’s an expert witness because he’s been at Spoelstra’s side all five seasons in Miami after working previously for Atlanta and Golden State.

“Every year he’s gotten better since I’ve been with him,” Fizdale said. “He challenges himself to get better. He’s never satisfied with where he is as a coach. He rarely gets credit. And the best part about him is, he doesn’t want any of the credit. You can’t say that about a lot of coaches in this league. He is one guy who really would prefer to coach and no one know who he was.”

Fizdale admitted that Spoelstra did savor the Heat’s title beyond the moments on court or in the trophy presentation. “He finally relaxed and got to sit back and smile and enjoy the fruits of his labor,” the assistant said. “Now, he’s not the type who’s going to sit there for a long. Probably a couple weeks after that, he was meeting with Billy Donovan or [John] Calipari or Chip Kelly [now of the NFL Eagles] or one of these guys. He’s always seeking knowledge and ways he can apply it to this team.”

Any time squeezed in there for, y’know, gloating? Spoelstra certainly earned the right.

“No. No way. Never ever,” Fizdale said. “He’ll never take the credit, he’ll never throw things in people’s faces because that’s not who he is. He’s competitive as hell. Wants to win everything. But not the type of person who, after he beats you, will gloat about it.”

Battier scoffs at any suggestion Spoelstra has it easier because of the Heat’s star power. “I’d beg to differ,” he said. “At this level, not only do you have to worry about the X’s & O’s, you have to balance egos. And the egos in this locker room are big. Global icons. It takes a person with a strong personality.”

Battier and Fizdale see the Pat Riley influences in Spoelstra, both in the gym and as a motivator. Then there’s a little Stan Van Gundy in there, and bits and pieces gleaned from those other coaches, maybe even from other sports.

In particular, Fizdale talked of Spoelstra’s ability, even his drive, to adapt and innovate to personnel and to various roster tweaks. “He understood these guys were a different monster,” Fizdale said. “And every year a team is a little different. He has always adjusted his tactics and his personality to that.

“You got to make talent mesh. Individually, those guys are going to the Hall of Fame. But they’re guys who were used to getting the ball 100 percent of the time. Now that’s been chopped into pieces.

“With the way he’s built our offense, he’s also developed those Hall of Famers in some way. Where you see them doing a lot more cutting, a lot more posting, more reading and reacting. It says something that these guys are having career years from a field-goal percentage standpoint. It’s not just that they went to the gym and started shooting 1,000 shots. It’s the structure that he’s put out there and the quality of shots they’re getting. The fact that they’re probably getting more easy baskets than they’ve ever gotten in their careers.”

Divvying up the percentages of credit for that interests Miami less than seeing that it continues into June.

37 Comments

  1. Fastidious replies in return of this question with solid arguments and explaining all
    regarding that.

  2. dwade3 says:

    will a team of star will win if the coach is not good.. players do the strategies that a coach wants them to do.. so if a coach is good and they are winning, you must respect him dude.. even you can’t coach a heat team yourself…

  3. maloco1 says:

    @ BRUCE shut up !!!. still a heat hater?? aren’t you????

    • Eric says:

      @Bruce. Bitter & Pathetic! Shut up man!

    • Chris says:

      you realize every good team has more outspoken haters and stupid bandwagon followers than they do die hard fans yes? It happened with the lakers, it happened with the bulls and probably Bill Russell’s celtics. We’re In a new era where any one can announce their hate or false fan hood to the world now.

      I wouldn’t hate Lebron so much if it wasn’t for the media age. He’s what’s trending now, and with media being accessible everywhere that means Lebron is even more in my face than Jordan was. I actually used to like the guy till it felt like every article and anything basketball related (even yahoo ads) was shoving him down my throat. I love Tim Duncan’s game, but I don’t even want HIM in my face that much

  4. Melo says:

    Yes, no matter how good the players are if the coach is not good, the players won’t have a good chemistry, less result will follow. Erik Spoelstra should be given the credit, too. I salute him, of course the big 3 and Chalmers, Battier and Allen get the big credit.

  5. maloco1 says:

    @ BRUCE shut up you moron.. still a heat hater?? aren’t you????

  6. Kal says:

    The Heat have transformed from a greatly talented team to a great team to one of the greatest ever in three years… they will win another in June unless Tim Duncan and company have one more miracle run left in the tank.

  7. Toro says:

    Anywise he gets the to goal, uses all the means available, so I don’t really get the purpose of this discussion. Seems like it just appeared only because Miami finally lost to hack-a-game Bulls. Why don’t mention Spo contribution while the streak was on? No no! Because the diggits, the numbers where most important, that’s some plain and fleeting jurnalism.

  8. Jack says:

    well i can say and see that he is a good coach, if you were in his shoes coaching the best players in the world, with that result in their first season together, i dont know if you could last this far, i mean, the management fully trust his abilities and knowledge, Pat trust him,…Bruce and other HATERS are the only critics which i know is a fan of busted FAKERS, or the depleted Boston,…respect the man, cmon i dont think u can play against Erik if he ask you to play against him,..how is coaching either??..

    • Chris says:

      why does everyone who hates the heat have to be a Laker or a Celtic fan? You sound dumber than the guy you’re trying to insult with such a baseless opinion. I hate the Heat, but I’m a Spurs fan. I also understand even if I hate the team they’re a GREAT team. Funny, if I hate on the Heat I’m a dumb faker fan but if I suddenly decide to cheer for them I’m another damn bandwagoner. Just watch basketball enjoy what team you like and stop insulting people who don’t like what you do

  9. Gil L. says:

    Bruce, be in context.Not in biasis………………..A good man, even if he’s in opposite side,knows what is right and good in that opposite side.

  10. Bruce says:

    Eric is a scrub. He doesn’t even know what a clip board is. If you just watch every timeout he calls he barely talks to his players. When he does talk he gives stupid generic advice that has nothing to do with the game. Honestly he is the least impressive coach and the fact that he was even allowed to coach the all star game was a joke. He couldn’t even do that right. Hes being carried. End of story. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    • Kris says:

      How many full timeouts were you a part of? How many of the video sessions and behind the scenes strategic meetings did you attend to?…yeah exactly…so just do as Riles told Ainge…no ifs,buts…

    • Ace says:

      Sometimes it depends also on the team and the players on it what you say and how you say it in a timeout…, if you say anything at all… Sometimes a timeout can help just to have the players talk to each other and figure defensive or offensive differences out. Not EVERY timeout has the purpose of the coach telling players what they have to do. I had a coach, he sometimes called a timeout, looked deeply at each player who he thought had messed up, shook his head, turned his back, and then sat down again without talking to anyone. Nothing was said during those timeouts. But believe me, we went back on the court with fire up our butts.

    • d-wade says:

      so is this bruce had ever coach a team? by your comments, it seem that you are so intelligent. what have you proven huh? have you been ever close to the huddle and saw him how he coaches? think about it hater before you comment. give some respect. i suspect, thats how people around you treats you. w/ out respect. shame on you man.

    • sick says:

      @Bruce you’re just jealous to coach Spo, STUPID! Lol

  11. Chris says:

    He’s a good talker I think. Probably has something to do with Miami’s success. Can keep his players motivated with such a talent. Other than that he does appear to be in the right place at the right time more so. Adelman put together a decent little run in the beginning with an injury plagued Wolves, Popovich is well.. Does this guy even need Validation? George Karl with his nuggets roster, I think these coaches have been tested more but Spo will likely have that same chance to prove he’s much more than the guy who happened to coach the big three. I actually respect the guy Knowing his history, but the position does seem a bit like a formality

  12. asdfrom says:

    Keep up the good work coach Spo. Good luck until the end of the season. Let’s go Heat!!!.

  13. Chalice says:

    Coaches matter a lot more than I see credit for. What amazes me is that when a team does badly (Lakers), they blame the coach but when success happens (Heat) its all about the players and the coach is irrelevant. Spolelstra deserves credit for a good chunk of the Miami success.

  14. YANG YANG says:

    THATS SOME BULL SHEEEEI

  15. Albert says:

    Coach Spoelstra is really a Filipinon pride

  16. GoHeat&LJ6 says:

    Nice Heat Nation, Go LJ6!

  17. Ashwin Sivalingam says:

    Heat are doing great this year! Even though I’m not a Heat fan, (I’m a Celtics fan) I think they’re a great team and have a big playoff run.

  18. Darius27 says:

    Hats u[ to coach Spo. The coaches and the players are one team. A family. A brotherhood with a sole focus of winning the championship. All the best to Miami.

  19. don kenobi says:

    Reminds me of this:
    A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
    Lao Tzu

  20. cp10 says:

    Heat w/ the big three:
    Year 1 = East Coast Conference Champions
    Year 2 = World champions, MVP, Gold medalist
    Year 3 = 2nd longest winning NBA streak, youngest ever 20k, record 30+ 60% efficiency; still going!

  21. Aram says:

    Go coach Spo’s humble beginnings makes him what he is right now. Still humble but really smart on how to tuen things around. Come playoffs time- Dexter Pittman may be used again *Wink*

  22. Bobo says:

    Why does bosh look like a duck?

  23. johnny dawson says:

    Yes, Spoelstra’s work is hard to quantify. You could count on all your fingers and all your toes and you still wouldn”t get to 27.

  24. Spire says:

    spoelstra doesnt need to coach. its not hard for a team of lbj, wade, bosh and a crew who drills 3 balls like no tomorrow to know how to win games against a weak conference.

  25. Reymoon says:

    Thank u for this article on coach spo…he has really done wonders to this star studded team. Good luck and may God Bless You with another championship!!!

  26. kim says:

    Before you comment about coach Spo is not a good fit for a coach in miami,,.kindly look for the season stats and the record for the star studded LA Lakers and its coach!!!,.gave Him a big credit for the streak!!