All the attention has been focused on the big 3 in Miami and for good reason. They made 4 straight finals appearances together and won two titles. They all opted out of their contracts and most people expect them to re-sign with the Heat. I have no doubt that they will return and I know people worry about who they will bring in to help but I’m more concerned with the coach Erik Spoelstra.
In the 2007-08 season the Miami Heat went 15-67 with Pat Riley as coach. The team was injured, they ranked dead last in points per game and the only player to play in all 82 games that season was Rickey Davis. They got the 2nd pick in the draft just missing out on Derrick Rose. Pat Riley stepped down and appointed Erik Spoelstra as the head coach. The Heat drafted Michael Beasley; most of us thought that was a good pick at the time.
The Heat went into next season with a healthy Wade and newly acquired Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. In Spo’s first season the Heat went 43-39 and Dwyane Wade led the league in scoring at 30.2 ppg. They lost in the first round to the Hawks but Spo did a good job for a team that previously had the worst record in basketball. The following year they went 47-35 and lost to the Boston Celtics in the 1st round.
So here is a coach who is doing a good job with Wade, Beasley, Haslem, Chalmers, Jermaine O’Neal, Quentin Richardson, Carlos Arroyo and Dorell Wright. They were improving slightly and they lost to a tough Celtics team who went to the finals that year.
The summer of 2010 was a big year and as we saw LeBron James and Chris Bosh join D-Wade in South Beach. They had that ridiculous celebration claiming titles and that was show to get everyone excited. I didn’t expect them to make the finals in their 1st season together. I thought the Celtics were a better team because they played together longer. It is extremely tough putting together similar players in their prime.
The journey wasn’t easy, they started 9-8 and people were calling for Spo’s firing; but the Heat found a way to beat the Celtics and the top seeded Bulls on their way to the NBA Finals. The plan had worked, the Heat were in the title game. They were embracing the villain role and then they played the Mavericks. LeBron James had his worst series ever and the Mavs beat the Heat in the Finals.
Nobody could believe what happen to LeBron and the Heat. Coach Spo had to change things on both sides of the ball. He introduced the “pace-and-space” style of play. It was a shorten season but the Heat looked much better through stretches. The ball didn’t stick as much they looked more comfortable. Their defense was chaotic, forcing turnovers leading to easy baskets. They won the title in five games against the Thunder.
The following year the Heat beat the Spurs in seven games to win the title again. Through all this, three trips to the finals and two wins Coach Spo was being overlooked. People would say he has LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Anyone could win with those guys. The Heat made the finals for the fourth straight year but got beat down by the Spurs. Fans were saying Spo couldn’t coach; this was the same guy who led a team to four straight finals and won two titles. The same guy who went to small ball against the bigger Pacers team when Bosh got hurt a couple years ago. The man can coach; he just doesn’t get enough credit.
I think it’s tougher to do what Spo did. He took over a team that had the worst record, had two good seasons and then all of a sudden has to deal with three superstars. He could of have easily folded and got fired. He got them to the finals in that tough 1st season and then changed their style of play on the fly to win a title. Great coaches lead great players to championships. How many titles did Shaq and Kobe win before Phil got there? How many titles did Jordan win before Phil got there? Shaq left and won another title under Pat Riley, another great coach. Great coaches win championships so give Spo his credit.
After the way the Heat looked in the finals Spo will have to change his style again. They were great on offense but their defense was getting destroyed. They can no longer play that blitz style. Their team was old and slow. This upcoming season might be the toughest for coach Spo because he needs to evolve his style. We watched Coach Pop down in San Antonio change the Spurs from this slow boring team to one of the most efficient, fast pace, high scoring teams in basketball.