Written by Dave George
You’re going to be hearing a lot over the next few days about Erik Spoelstra and how he’ll soon be the Miami Heat’s all-time leader in regular-season wins. Going into Wednesday night’s game with Portland, he was one short of Pat Riley’s franchise record of 453.
There’s a lot to like about Spo, whether or not you want to quibble about the fact that any coach would have run up a ton of wins with the Big Three at his disposal for four years.
There are important qualifiers for any significant sports landmark, of course. In this case, Riley won 1,055 regular-season NBA games and four championships before he ever got to Miami, so there’s no true pairing of these coaches as peers.
What really interests me, though, is the journey Spo took from being the Heat’s video coordinator, a thankless job that wasn’t guaranteed to last beyond the first summer, to becoming the head coach of a couple of NBA title teams in Miami.
This is the sort of thing that every gym rat believes is possible. Every kid whose father or grandfather or favorite uncle was a hoops coach at any level from high school on up. Every former player who sweated through what seemed like a thousand monotonous practices and figured there had to be a more efficient way of sharpening a team’s collective skills.
You’ve got to be smart and you’ve got to be lucky and it always helps to be a little connected, like Spo was as the son of former NBA executive Jon Spoelstra. More than anything, though, you’ve got to be totally sold on the idea that a career in basketball is the only path to true joy, even during losing streaks and firings and locker-room meltdowns and such.