Friday, February 26, 2010

A Lukewarm Argument Against Erik Spoelstra

February 26, 2010

In a recent opinion editorial in the Miami New Times, Luther Campbell (AKA Uncle Luke of 2 Live Crew) denounced Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra with statements such as:

...when you get a guy who is young and inexperienced like Spoelstra (who never played or coached in the NBA), players are not going to respect him.

Today, Riley is the one holding back the Heat, but it will be hard to move him. You have to do it in stages. First, get rid of Spoelstra and bring in an experienced coach. Then, you gotta bring in some help for Dwyane Wade. If the Heat is not successful after that, Riley needs to go.
This blame-all-fault on Coach Spoelstra is just one of many weak attempts at pinpointing the Miami Heat's struggles this season. In a previous article, factors relating to the Heat's woes were discussed at length, hinting at other significant elements that deserved blame beyond the coach. And it's not to say that Spo is the next coming of Red Auerbach, but clearly the man has not had an opportunity to prove his coaching skills in terms of success.

Take this into account, on April 24, 2004, Doc Rivers was named Boston Celtics Head Coach. In his first three seasons, the Celtics win count progressively declined from 45 to 33 to 24. In that 2006-07, 24-win season Boston held the second worst record in the league behind the Memphis Grizzlies. Similar to the Heat, Boston had their star in Paul Pierce, but was unable to build a contending supporting cast around him. Thus, the questions began to pour in: is Doc Rivers fit for head coaching?

The following season, with ample cap room and nifty trading chips, Boston acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. With the 2007 NBA Champions banner hoisted up at TD Garden Arena, the rest is history.

So, was it a matter of Doc Rivers inability to coach that the Celtics performed poorly in his first three seasons, or was it just a lack of talent? The latter seems to be the most accurate answer.

The same can be said about Coach Spoelstra.

The outcry for top-tier players beyond Dwyane Wade has been in media headlines for two seasons now. And with Miami's wide open checkbook for the 2010 offseason, perhaps that outcry will be muffled by quality acquisitions this summer; leaving Spoelstra in charge of a more talented group of athletes.

Let us not forget, Pat Riley was making the courtside calls during the 2007-08, 15-win season. It's doubtful that his ability to coach was at the heart of that disastrous year. Had it been Spoelstra in Riley's shoes, "Wanted" posters with his mug shot and name would be plastered across Miami.

In essence, the accusations of players not giving Spo "respect" are far-fetched and premature. In fact, Spoelstra, in his assistant role, helped Dwyane Wade develop his now-deadly jump shot; working numerous hours to achieve perfection with Miami's star guard. It is doubtful that Wade would not respect such dedication.

In all likelihood, the blame game will end next season when a revamped Heat roster will be in Spoelstra's arsenal. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "I will prepare and some day my chance will come." Next season will be that chance for Erik Spoelstra.

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