Miami Heat Legend Defends Erik Spoelstra: ‘Not Just the Pat Riley Show’

Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra

Getty Erik Spoelstra won over the Miami Heat locker room in 2008, including star guard Dwyane Wade.

The NBA is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and a wide array of lists have been compiled to celebrate. Greatest players. Greatest teams. And the most recent one listed the 15 Greatest Coaches in league history.

Not surprisingly, Miami Heat president Pat Riley made the cut alongside fellow coaching legends like Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson, Lenny Wilkens, and Jack Ramsay. The Godfather won four championships as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, then took his talents to South Beach to win another one in 2006. GOAT status. But some people (mostly non-Heat fans) were surprised to see Erik Spoelstra on the list.

Spoelstra recorded his milestone 600th career win last season and the young-looking 51-year-old ranks 24th on the all-time career wins list with 642. He also has two shiny championships to show thanks to those back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. He’s tied for eighth place with K.C. Jones in career playoff victories with 81.

“Yeah, I’m smiling. Being in Miami in 2008, I’ll never forget the conversation Pat Riley had with me about turning the keys over to Spo,” Wade said on TNT. “And Spo and I had a great relationship because he would be the guy who would work me out after practice to help me learn how to really shoot and play in an NBA game.

“And to see him go from that first year — in 2008 when he didn’t know what the hell he was doing — to now, in 2022, to be added to this list … I always say Pat Riley set the standard but Coach Spo improved on it. And you really see his DNA on the organization now, it’s not just the Pat Riley Show. It’s Erik Spoelstra.”

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Twitter Reacts to 15 Greatest Coaches List

Twitter isn’t always a safe place for everyone when good news hits. It’s filled with trolls who want to knock people down a few pegs.

And those haters had a field day with Spoelstra’s name being listed among the greats. There were tons of people pointing out that he never won a championship without LeBron James while referencing his 642-444 overall win-loss record.

Never mind that James has credited Spoelstra many times for the Heat’s success. The four-time NBA champion called his former coach “damned good, if not great” and said the disrespect fuels him.

“Spo likes it. That’s what fuels Spo, is the disrespect that you guys give him, the basketball world,” James said of Spoelstra in 2020, via the Los Angeles Times. “I’m not going to sit up here and act like I don’t know what Spo is all about, because he’s damned good, if not great. It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t gotten his respect.”


Coaching Team Durant in All-Star Game

Spoelstra was also named head coach for Team Durant in the All-Star Game slated for February 20. He’ll be leading the best players in the Eastern Conference against James and the West. How’s that for a twist of fate? In James’ former stomping grounds of Cleveland, too.

The All-Star coaches were selected by virtue of the teams holding the best records through February 6. The Miami Heat (35-20) lead the East while the Phoenix Suns (44-10) lead the West. Monty Williams will match wits with Spoelstra.

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