Table of contents
In the recently concluded 75th anniversary of the NBA, Spoelstra, the head coach of the Heat, was selected as one of the top 15 outstanding coaches in the history of the league, highlighting his talent and hard work.
The coach-head coach combination of him and his mentor Pat Riley has been the key reason for the Heat‘s strength in recent years. But in the early years, Spoelstra was far from the first in the Heat’s lineup when it came to Riley’s successor, with most people’s first thought being Stan Van Gundy, the older of the Van Gundy brothers.
It started with the Nick era in New York. Jeff Van Gundy (JVG), the younger brother of the Van Gundy brothers, was an assistant coach with the Nick since 1989, and they worked together for four years after Pat Riley took over as the Nick head coach in 1991. So much so that when he decided to move down to Miami after the 1995 season, he wanted to bring JVG with him, but Nick refused, so Riley recruited his brother SVG, former head coach at the University of Wisconsin, to be his assistant coach, and Riley even said Riley even said “I wanted at least one Van Gundy with me”, which shows how satisfied he is with JVG.
But on the other hand, Spoelstra’s starting point was not as high. After graduating from the University of Portland, Spoelstra had to go to Germany to play professional basketball and coach the team for a living. In terms of time, Spoelstra was even ahead of Riley and the others in the team. In fact, when Riley was confirmed to take over as head coach of the Heat, he also wanted to bring the video cutter he worked with to Miami, but like the JVG situation, Nick wouldn’t release him. In other words, if we look back at the Miami Heat uniform team of the summer of 1995, Pat Riley was clearly the boss, while SVG was the successor of the handpicked, and Spoelstra was more like a roadie far away from the core of power.
For the next few years, Spoelstra was described by some in the media as a video editor who spent his days in the cellar, out of sight and out of mind. But his efforts were seen and two years later (1997) he was promoted to assistant coach, while continuing to work as a video editing instructor, and then two years later to assistant coach and senior scout. At the same time, SVG has been Riley’s primary assistant coach.
In the 2003
In the early 21st century, due to Alonzo Mourning’s kidney disease, the Heat’s performance was in decline and even ranked outside the top 10 in the Eastern Conference for two consecutive seasons in 2001-03. SVG took over as the Heat’s head coach for the next generation, and this year, the Heat only won 42 and lost 40, but it was a 17-win improvement over the previous year, and even ranked fourth in the Eastern Conference with a weak Eastern Conference team, and lost to the Slippers in the second round of the playoffs. But with Wade, Caron Butler, Eddie Jones and Lamar Odom, the young Heat gave fans hope again. The next year Riley made a big trade for Shaq O’Neal, who was still in his prime, and the Heat had the best record in the Eastern Conference in the regular season, and SVG became the first Heat head coach to coach a star game by having the best record in the Eastern Conference before the star game.
The following season (2005-06), Riley was determined to trade for a number of star players, but by this time there were already rumors that Riley would return to the coaching reins and return SVG to the assistant coach position. As expected, after a poor start to the season, SVG released a statement telling reporters that it was now difficult for him to take care of both the team and his family, so he had to resign and hand the coaching job back to his mentor. However, many people, including the author, did not believe this statement, but with the Heat winning the championship that season, most people didn’t care about it anymore.
However, SVG should have left a good impression when coaching at that time, so less than two years later, the Magic invited him to be the head coach again, and this period should be the peak of SVG’s coaching. Under SVG’s planning, the core is the first-ranked center Dwight Howard, with extension number four Rachard Lewis, in addition to large point guard Hedo Turkoglu plus Jameer Nelson who has quite good offensive firepower, SVG is considered to have built a team lineup ideal for his master. Especially in the 2008-09 Eastern Conference championship game, it was quite enjoyable to watch Turkoglu dismantle the Knights’ defensive lineup between cutting and passing. It’s a shame that the Lakers, who had a much taller frontcourt, lost after 5 games and failed to win the championship, and the Magic never returned to the heights they were at in the following years. SVG parted ways with the Magic in 2012 and subsequently served as head coach of the Pistons and Pelicans, and even served as president of basketball affairs at one time during the Pistons’ time, always reaching the height of his master in the Heat, but in these two teams, SVG’s performance with the team was poor, and in recent years has gradually lost the aura of the head coach of the two star games.
Erik Spoelstra, on the other hand, is revered by fans as one of the modern-day military gods, and his diverse play-calling and even his use of centers show that he is quite different from his mentor Pat Riley. But even now, Spoelstra has been praised as one of the gods of the modern army, but he has also gone through a lot of trials and tribulations in his early days, and even had a lot of complaints from fans, such as facing the Green Jackets in the first round of the 2009-10 playoffs, forgetting to call a timeout at the end of the game and losing the opportunity to properly plan the last shot. In the LCD era, there have been rumors that Spoelstra was unable to effectively control the internal, but fortunately, he survived in the end, and there is now this top coach.
However, if we go back 10 years or even more, it is hard to imagine that we would choose Spoelstra instead of SVG just by looking at the seniority. In addition, there may be a change of heart with age, and as a result, Riley only handed over the baton to SVG for two years and then reappeared, but then handed over the baton to Spoelstra and never returned to the position of coach, but concentrated on his position of general manager. Looking at the performance of SVG and Spoelstra in the head coach position in the past few years, it is impossible to imagine what the current Heat would be like if SVG had taken over the job.
In all fairness, although SVG had a high starting point, I myself feel that Riley did not give him enough opportunities, first of all, many people (including the author) feel that Riley has been hoping to prove himself as the head coach in the Heat to win another championship, after all, he did not get what he wanted in the Nick period, another point is that the Heat is really too many bulls and snakes, like O ‘Neal is known for his laziness, not to mention that the Heat to the next year because of the slack mentality in the first round directly by the Bulls swept out (even if the head coach is still Pat Riley), in the subsequent period of the Big Three can not have the kind of thing happened. The subsequent Riley handover to Spoelstra, I guess how much because Riley has led the team to win the championship, to prove themselves, the state of mind can be more relaxed, so in the early Spoelstra is still inexperienced, still support him to stabilize the army.
From the author’s perspective, another far-reaching effect of Spoelstra being able to take over smoothly for the Heat is that Riley can help focus on his role as the team’s general manager, working on things like the draft and free agent signings. As we all know, Riley has always hated the concept of rebuilding, replacing it with restructuring. In this case, since rookies take time to develop, the draft wasn’t a big deal in Riley’s eyes in the early years, and several outstanding draft picks from the Riley era such as Dwyane Wade (fifth overall in the first round in 2003), Caron Butler (tenth overall in the first round in 2002) and Michael Beasley ( 2008 first round second overall) more or less because of the better position of the draft, however even so, most people should not consider Beasley among them as a rookie with a nurturing success.