Friday, November 28, 2008

If you're not more talented than somebody, you can outwork them

When Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was in high school one summer, his coach set out a challenge to every player on the team: Take 30,000 jumpers from various spots around the court, charting each one.

Of the guys on his team, only Spoelstra completed the challenge.

According to an article in the Portland paper, "Even as a teenager, Spoelstra's laser-like focus, meticulous attention to detail and extensive notetaking were evident. Those characteristics are part of the reason why legendary coach Pat Riley selected Spoelstra to succeed him as coach of the Miami Heat."

Says Erik's father Jon Spoelstra: "The blessed part is if you're not more talented than somebody, you can outwork them. The curse of it is if you outwork them, you're also going to be giving up something from your life."

From 1995-97, as MIA's video coordinator, Spoelstra spent hours in "The Cave," a tiny office (with no windows) at the Miami Arena, "dedicated to providing Riley (and later, coach Stan Van Gundy) with insights, suggestions and clues for upcoming games through scouting, note-taking and crunching numbers."

"It was almost like my door was locked and I was never let out to see the sunlight," Spoelstra said. "My first year in Miami, I didn't even know it was sunny during the winter."

Chris Wallace, the Heat's director of player personnel at the time, was instrumental in helping Spoelstra get the job in Miami.

"The guy ate, sleep and drank basketball," said Wallace, now Memphis general manager. "He put every last ounce he had to give into the job and learning the NBA game. Erik has learned his craft from the bottom up. You have to have enormous respect for anyone in any occupation that does reach the top the way he did."

Says Pat Riley, who would later promote Coach Spoelstra to assistant coach:

"This is something that developed over 13 years of working with the man and watching him grow and do different things. The one thing I know is that when I'm not around Erik or when Erik is on the road, or he's at home, I know he's working. He's working when I'm not watching and that's what you want in a head coach."