Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Following a coach who won 1200 games and five NBA titles

It can't be easy taking over for a coach who won more than 1,200 games and five NBA titles during a 24-year career.

But Erik Spoelstra is working hard to put his stamp on the Miami Heat since taking over from Pat Riley back in April.

This summer, Coach Spoelstra went on the road, visiting his players where they live to meet with them and discuss expectations, roles, goals, etc.

In Las Vegas, for example, he spent nearly three hours talking with Marcus Banks, and that was after a six-hour flight from Miami.

He also took the team's 10-pound printed playbook, converted it to digital form, and put it on an iPodtouch for each player. According to one Heat player:

"Everything's on it. We got playbooks, rules, game films from last season, a couple of edits — good edits and bad edits. Pretty much everything is on there."

Early in training camp, Coach Spo has added various movement sets to Miami's offense in an effort to take some of the load off of Dwyane Wade. He's also placed a heavy emphasis on defense. Here's how one Heat player described the team's first practice:

"We did a lot of defensive drills, and then we did some more defensive drills, then we did some more defensive drills, then we did some more defensive drills."

Said Coach Spoelstra: "Two hours and 15 minutes of straight defense. They didn't get into any shots, any kind of offensive thing, except to get shots at the end."

Coach Spo carries himself like a guy who's 47 or 57, not 37. He's another great example of a coach who started at the bottom -- as Miami's video coordinator on June 8, 1995 -- and worked his way up.

That Pat Riley, a former NBA player, NBA exec, and Hall of Fame coach, named Coach Spoelstra his replacement speaks volumes of the respect he has for Erik.

As Coach Riley said back in April when he stepped down:

"While we are always looking for NBA talent to perform on the court, the most important talent that you may find has to perform on the bench, in the locker room, late at night, watching film, motivating and executing all the responsibilities of a head coach. I believe Erik Spoelstra is one of the most talented young coaches to come around in a long time."