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Thursday, June 7, 2012

You’re Fii-ehd!

Good thing, for Spoelstra, The Donald isn't running the Heat. 1
That was the best Donald Trump impersonation I could put in writing. Many have speculated, repeatedly, that should Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra fail to win the Eastern Conference Final, Pat Riley could be playing the role of The Donald and show The Apprentice the door. Should that be the case, Coach Spoelstra is literally coaching for his job tonight.


I am not of the opinion that “championship round or bust” is the case, though. I think we as sports fans are getting into “overreaction mode”. What Spoelstra has done with Heat President Pat Riley’s “grand experiment” and the inevitably stout egos of their “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in just two seasons is impressive.

Consider the Heat’s shortage of quality depth after the sixth man, all of the attention, scrutiny, and media pressure, and the inability of the Heat to pursue free agent role players because of the strain that the Big Three place on the salary cap. The man has a conference title under his belt. Did I mention he coaches LeBron James? One could make a well reasoned argument that Spoelstra has the toughest head coaching job in the NBA.


First, I doubt that Riley is firing Spoelstra, no matter how this season ends in Miami. Second, if Spoelstra were available, he would not be unemployed long. I think a lot of teams, including (potentially) division rivals like the Orlando Magic, are lying in wait and have not filled their vacancy because of the possibility of Spoelstra's availability. Other hot coaching prospects, like Brian Shaw, have much less to list on their resumes. Spoelstra's fan-imposed standard has been "title or bust”, ludicrous for two years on the job with a conference title and being two wins away from another.

What GMs are going to say, "Don't call us. We'll call you," if they are in need of a coach? I doubt Michael Jordan would show Spoelstra the door if he expressed an interest in coaching Jordan’s coaching-starved team in Charlotte. Does anyone think the Magic, after weathering a coaching crisis this season, would not give Spoelstra serious consideration?
Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra - Miami Heat Introduce LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade
The only opinion that matters. 2


The media speculation about the brevity of Spoelstra’s tenure in Miami has been rampant since the Heat got off to a pedestrian start in the 2010-2011 season. However, there hasn't been the least hint from the one man in the public eye that matters: Pat Riley. The only times he has spoken on Spoelstra’s future, he has given votes of confidence. And while we, the public, can hyper-criticize every decision he makes because of the team he coaches, in the grand scheme, Spoelstra’s worst case scenario is that his season result is the same as that of the (future Hall of Famer) reigning NBA Coach of the Year, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose last conference title would have come four years before Spoelstra's last.

In other words, there are no guarantees. Former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jimmy Johnson was fired after winning a second consecutive Super Bowl so no coach is safe. But Spoelstra is a bright young coach who has a very difficult NBA coaching job with an insane amount of scrutiny and pressure. He has done a pretty good job. And if he gets fired, he's going to be on a ton of short lists until he gets another head coaching job.
Don't hold your breath. 3
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