Coach Erik Spoelstra

Written by Ira Winderman

If Erik Spoelstra truly is a Pat Riley protégé, then Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors at AmericanAirlines Arena means the starting point of the climb toward his next 500 victories.

Now at 500-336 during the regular season in his 11 years of coaching the Miami Heat, Spoelstra stands less than halfway to Riley’s 1,210 regular-season coaching victories with the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Heat.

“Pat has been a great mentor to me all these years,” Spoelstra said of the Heat president. “There have been a lot of low points, a lot of really incredible moments, but you don’t get to survive those low points if you don’t have great stability and belief from people above you.

“And we’ve been able to weather a couple of tough seasons and lived to fight another day. So I’m always forever grateful. Anybody else probably would have never had a chance to go past 100 wins before they got fired.”