Written by the Associated Press
Erik Spoelstra still vividly remembers getting a short speech from his father, a sage piece of advice that came about a year into his time in the employ of the Miami Heat.
“Don’t screw it up,” Jon Spoelstra said.
Almost 25 years later, the mantra still applies.
Erik Spoelstra coached his 850th game for the Heat on Wednesday night, passing team president and Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley for the most in franchise history. Spoelstra is only the 13th person to coach at least 850 games with one NBA franchise; it’s happened 14 times overall, with Don Nelson reaching that threshold with both Milwaukee and Golden State during his career.
“My dad had been fired from a couple of different places and he knew the real NBA,” Spoelstra said. “He was saying it almost as such an exaggeration … just find a way to hang on with this guy, this Hall of Famer. And I guess the lesson to that is, I’m still just trying to hang on, trying to work for him for as long as I possibly can.”
New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry will coach his 1,000th career game Thursday when the Pelicans visit Oklahoma City, making him the 31st NBA coach to hit that milestone. Unless either Scott Skiles or Stan Van Gundy returns to an NBA sideline beforehand — they’ve coached 958 and 907 games, respectively — Spoelstra could be the next coach to join the 1,000-game club, sometime around the midpoint of the 2020-21 season.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade has spent virtually his entire career around Spoelstra, who was an assistant under Riley until moving into the top spot for the 2008-09 season. That means he’s heard just about every quote Spoelstra has to offer over and over and over again, lines about “identity” and “competition” and insisting that in any circumstance “we have enough.