The Miami Heat‘s run to the NBA Finals last season brought to light something that slipped the mind of the average NBA fan: Erik Spoelstra is one of the most underrated coaches in NBA history.
Spoelstra took a lot of heat (pun intended) early in his career when he inherited one of the first super teams in the modern NBA era.
He has since, however, put many of those questions about his coaching ability to rest.
From the NBA GM survey: The Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra swept the coaching categories, earning best coach (46%), best manager/motivator of people (32%) and best in-game adjustments (26%).
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) December 18, 2020
Here are three reasons why Erik Spoelstra is not an overrated NBA head coach:
1. Ability To Manage Superstars
Before the Lebron James Heat seasons, Spoelstra coached the Dwyane Wade-led Heat to the playoffs in his first two years.
The team finished with winning records in both regular seasons.
Then, the young coach got the privilege of adding the best player in the game (James) and another top tier star (Chris Bosh) to Wade and company.
In all four “Big 3” years, Spoelstra and the Heat made it to the Finals winning two of them.
There were several questions about whether or not the young, inexperienced head coach would be able to gain the respect of a star studded roster.
He won over the approval of Lebron, and while fans can be unrealistic in their expectations of super teams, winning two titles in four years is exceptional.
Believe it or not, his two titles ties him for sixth all time among NBA head coaches.
His ability to maintain the comradery of an all-star roster is one reason Spoelstra is underrated as an NBA coach.
2. Winning Even In Post Lebron Years
The Golden State Warriors have proven how easy it is to become irrelevant in the playoff picture when the stars of the roster leave or get injured.
They went 15-50, good for last in the league.
What happened to the Heat the year after Lebron James left?
Miami missed the playoffs at 37-45 with Chris Bosh out most of the season for injury.
What happened the following year with Bosh still missing most of the season?
They went 48-34 and made it to the Eastern Conference Semis.
The following year, with no Bosh or Wade and Hassan Whiteside as their top player?
They did miss the playoffs, but they went 41-41 — a far cry from Steve Kerr’s starless 2019 season.
The Heat may not have been as dominant in the four years following The Big 3 years, but they were never irrelevant — a tremendous feat in the modern NBA.
3. Winning With A Young Roster
Last season confirmed that Spoelstra should be considered one of the top coaches in the league after taking the 5th seeded Heat to the NBA Finals.
His best player, Bam Adebayo, an All-Star big man in a guard dominant league, far exceeded expectations under Spoelstra’s tutelage.
Tyler Herro, a mid-first-round pick, burst onto the scene playing clutch minutes off the bench in the playoffs.
Jimmy Butler, an NBA journeyman who has caused issues on his previous teams, became the ultimate team player under the Miami head coach.
Bottom line, the Heat’s roster consisted of young, overachieving players and aging veterans well past their prime.
Avery Bradley explains how Erik Spoelstra has unlocked Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo: https://t.co/m82o5mvEOl
— Heat Nation (@HeatNationCom) December 24, 2020
Once again, Spoelstra proved that he can win with a roster full of a few big stars or several quality players.
Top Tier Coach
Erik Spoelstra has proven to be a versatile coach that can manage both the x’s and o’s and the locker room.
Maybe the most telling of his greatness is the fact that he has had the endorsement of Pat Riley all these years.
Riley has recognized his success for the last decade, and it is time NBA fans recognize it as well.