Detroit Pistons Coach Dreams: Erik Spoelstra

Essentials

Age: 40

Current Job: Head Coach, Miami Heat (2008-present)

Previous experience:

  • Assistant Coach/Director of Scouting, Miami Heat (2001-08)
  • Assistant Coach/Advance Scout, Miami Heat (1999-2001)
  • Assistant Coach/Video Coordinator, Miami Heat (1997-99)
  • Video Coordinator, Miami Heat (1995-97)

Pros

If there’s a self-made coach in the NBA, it’s Spoelstra. I don’t think anyone gets started in an NBA front office without connections, and he used his dad’s friendship with Chris Wallace to get in the door. But once on the ladder, Spoelstra climbed it on his own.

He’s extremely bright and hard working – the ultimate combination for a potential NBA coach. What separates the coaches who stick from those who don’t is the inter-personal skills necessary to keep their players happy. After surviving a year with the Big Three and all the scrutiny that comes with coaching that high-profile team, I think Spoelstra has that.

He’s a wonderful defensive coach. Before Miami signed LeBron James, one of the league’s best defenders, and before Joel Anthony was ready for consistent minutes, the Heat still had a strong defense. With players like Mario Chalmers, Michael Beasley, Quentin Richardson, Daequan Cook and limpy Jermaine O’Neal receiving big minutes, the Heat finished 11th and sixth in defensive rating the previous two years. This year, they continued their upward trend to fifth.

Cons

Spoelstra has had plenty of hiccups. He was out-coached by Rick Carlisle in the Finals, and he never should have said the Heat were crying in the locker room after a regular-season loss. He’s young and a first-time coach, and he’s going to make more mistakes.

He’s also not available right now, and I don’t think he will become available. He’s certainly not leaving the Heat, next year’s title favorites, on his own. But ESPN’s David Thorpe predicts they’ll fire him. It certainly wouldn’t shock anyone.

Verdict

I don’t think the Heat will fire Spoelstra, but on the chance they do, I’d delay the coaching search to have a shot at him. He’d top my list.

Most of the Pistons other candidates are available only because other teams don’t want them. That’s not the case with Spoelstra – and for good reason. He’s a rising star in the profession.

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