Sunday, October 7, 2012

Erik Spoelstra: He is Miami Heat’s Head Coach, Hot and Pinoy

Originally published on Feb 2010
Three names are consistently and perhaps internationally recognized as NBA hardcores – Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O’ Neil and Dwayne Wade. These three launch themselves in the air with ease and grace you’ll think there is an invisible staircase that moves around with them. They brave the face of their opponents no matter the height, size and shape. They outrun, outwit and freakin’ outplay anyone who gets in their way to shooting the ball. They are conditioned, trained and motivated it would probably take Superman in steroids to beat them on the court.
If you think they got to where they are because they were born with it, you couldn’t be more wrong.
One man always stands a couple of feet away who knew their potential way before the world did, who found ways how to improve their weakness and hone their strengths. He was the almighty god-of-their-basketball-universe be all and end all coach and he is one heck of a proud Pinoy – Erik Spoelstra.

ERIK SPOELSTRA - Miami Heat Head Coach Proud Pinoy
Erik does not own a blackbelt in any martial arts, have never been to the prison for more than a couple of overnighters and certainly did not fight any rebel in any country but he, without an ounce of doubt, is a balls-out effin’ guy who exert absolutely insane courage than the lead character of of Kill Bill put in the middle of professional UFC fighters, true Japanese Ninja and Muntinlupa lunatics.
At 38, Erik became the youngest NBA head coach. It comes with both prestige and responsibility. He is not new to the game. His mother, Elisa Celino, is pure Pinay and hails from Laguna. His father, Jon Spoelstra, is a long time NBA executive for Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets and New Jersey Nets. Erik played basketball for the Jesuit High School in Portland, University of of Portland, and coached and played for Tus Herten, a German professional team. He almost played for the PBA, which he says now, in hindsight he wished pushed through.
I took my time in writing this article. After the first seven personalities I wrote about, I had to find someone we can really be proud of. Erik fits this. He is the kind of Pinoy who doesn’t feel the need prove to everyone he is Pinoy because, for him, it is so gadam obvious.
His beginnings in the NBA is not glamorous, though. The legendary Pat Riley took him in as Miami Heat’s video coordinator. Erik didn’t know what the job entailed then. Turns out, he was to be in-charged of preparing scouting tapes for the team in 1995. Erik didn’t waste time in displaying some badass attitude towards his work. He was cited by Sports Illustrated for honing stars like Dwayne Wade’s shooting balance and smoothing out his release after the Flash’s return from the Athens Olympics.
Two years later he was named Assistant Coach/Video Coordinator, then promoted to Assistant Coach/Advance Scout in 1999. He became the Assistant Coach/Director of Scouting in 2001.On April of 2008, Erik Spoelstra (known to the players as “Coach Spo”) was then named successor to Pat Riley as head coach of the Miami Heat.
That story sounded simple but the work on how he got there is not. When he was scouting, he spent 20 to 25 nights a month out on the road for two years. He goes from one city to another trailing a team and writes up a report on what they do, assess individual players, make a recommendation on who to get and who to pass. On his hands, lies the NBA future of many many talents out there. Without his eye and brains, NBA would be naught in several years. He has no contact with the team he is working for other than the report he is sending.

Erik calls the shots, how cool is that?!
That’s a pretty giant mind f$%k if you ask me. Being away from home 96% of the time can move you past insanity and into the demonic world of boredom but not Erik. He didn’t just remain awesome, he managed to become great all of the gad@m time. He managed to turn the job into his advantage, he learned so many different coaching philosophies, ways of doing things, offensive and defensive schemes and ways of communicating and coaching and teaching players.
Erik is also one of those responsible for turning the basketball into a science – a game of statistical probabilities and of floor strategies. He proved that everything can be learned including opponents to beat them at their own style of play. He developed a proprietary software, a statistical database that accumulates as much information as they can for assessment. He is also in the process of putting their 300-page playbook in a notebook that players can flip through. He also wants to put it in iTouch recognizing that many players are gadget freaks. He knows it’s another way to communicate with the players. So, he is putting diagrams of plays, motivational quotes, articles about the players, and even on people with interesting lives that we can relate to.
Riley credits Erik for recognizing the use of technology in bringing fresh new ideas in the handling a team without forgetting the fact that it ends up being about the players and their performance. I don’t know about you but a simple analysis of how I should train for a freakin’ 10K run gives me a headache in titanic proportion let alone come up with a technical program where an entire NBA team worth more than my soul could give me instant clinical insanity.
To Erik, though, it’s just part of the job.
Erik is filling Pat Riley’s gigantic shoes having coached the Lakers to four NBA titles led the New York Knicks to the NBA Finals and steered the Heat to the championship in 2006. He is also a Hall of Famer.
The greatness of Erik ain’t gonna come in this decade, maybe not even in the next. His greatness as another proud Pinoy is a different story though.

... and he is single

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