March 24, 2017 08:45 PM PST
SINCE 2007

Heat extend contract for FilAm coach Spoelstra

By NICHOLAS VON WETTBERG

When it comes to the fringe NBA follower, the one who prefers style over substance and would rather tune in sporadically to watch slam dunk highlights featuring some of the world’s most gifted athletes rather than sound, fundamental team play then Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra will never get the proper credit he deserves. Detractors consistently point to the fact that the young coach, all of 42 years old and about to enter his sixth season on the bench, has had the luxury of working with some of the game’s all-time greats, among them guard Dwyane Wade and forward LeBron James.



Ever since the “Big Three” of James, Wade and center Chris Bosh was assembled in South Beach during the free agency whirlwind period of July 2010, Spoelstra has found himself in a virtual no-win situation.

Yet when it comes to the Pat Riley-led front office of the organization, which has now won back-to-back championship titles and appeared in the league finals for three consecutive seasons, there is little doubt that as a sideline general and leader of men Spoelstra’s value to the franchise is worth his weight in gold.

That is why the Filipino-American, who Riley said was “born to coach,” has reached an agreement in principle for a brand new multi-year contract extension, a pre-training camp move that was reported on by numerous hoops sources over the weekend such as Yahoo sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski and the Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman.

The contract’s details – length and amount – were unavailable and probably will not be revealed for some time. That’s fine with “Coach Spo,” a relatively private dude that would rather keep the numbers in-house.

“What’s overlooked for him is the management of the team,” Wade told the Associated Press last season. “It’s not the coaching part of it. It’s, ‘Can you manage these egos, these personalities, without having one your damn self?’ He’s done it.”

Experts believe the new contract would be good for no less than three years and would include at least a 50 percent salary increase for the champion Pinoy coach.

Forward Udonis Haslem said that with his new contract it is time the longtime Heat employee gets dipped a little more than in the past.

“As a team,” forward Udonis Haslem said, “we’ve had conversations about a wardrobe upgrade for Spo. So, hoping that’s coming in the near future.

Already the second longest-tenured NBA head coach for the same team, Spoelstra has guided the Heat to the playoffs in five straight seasons.

In those five seasons, Spoelstra totes a record of 260-134 and is 50-29 in the playoffs, including the past two championships. He has earned a solid reputation as a coach that can motivate and bring out the best of star players.

Spoelstra, 42, the first and only Asian champion head coach of a major league team in North America, probably had his best season last year, reeling off the second-longest regular season winning streak in NBA history with 27 and finished with a record of 66-16. Miami won the championship after grind-it-out seven-game series victories over Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals and San Antonio in the NBA Finals.

The legendary NBA coach Pat Riley, who handpicked Spoelstra to succeed him as head coach when Riley opted to retire from coaching for good in 2008, saw the potential in Spoelstra. As team president and with the clear backing of team owner Mickey Arison, Riley made it clear last season that he wants Spoelstra “with this team for a long, long time.”

Under his watch, the Heat have developed an explosive small team offense, while maintaining a swarming defense, making up for their lack of a strong presence in the middle against bigger teams.

A former star guard in high school and college, Spoelstra is credited with building the winning culture in Miami, switching to a small-ball approach that unlocked James’ full potential and maximized the team’s agility and perimeter shooting.