It’s not every day you get compared to a future Hall of Famer. So maybe there needs to be a little more respect put on Erik Spoelstra’s name.
The Miami Heat coach has drawn rave reviews from his players on the 2021 USA Basketball Select Team. Shooting guard Keldon Johnson compared Spoelstra to Gregg Popovich, the five-time championship-winning coach for who is 22 years his senior. Johnson should be able to diagnose the similarities between the two coaches better than anyone. He has played under Popovich for two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and just started taking orders from Spoelstra two days ago in Las Vegas.
“They definitely preach the same things, just making the right decision and having a plan when you make that decision,” Johnson told Ira Winderman. “They’re definitely similar, but they definitely have their own way of getting to you and telling you things.”
Popovich, of course, is the head coach for Team USA as they prepare for the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He’s been relying on Spoelstra to push the 12-man Olympic squad in practices all week. The two share a mutual respect for each other while sharing in a pretty special fraternity: they are two of only six coaches to win 600 games with the same NBA franchise.
“I really admire what he’s done, coming up through the ranks and how he’s matriculated through the different levels in the league and ended up in a position he’s in,” Popovich said of Spoelstra back in April, via The Associated Press. “He’s worked so hard, done such a great job, and it’s just kind of thrilling to see somebody achieve that.”
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Heat Enter California Classic Summer League
The Miami Heat will be one of four teams heading to Sacramento for a two-day pre-summer league camp on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4. They’ll be joined by the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, and Golden State Warriors.
Those four squads — yes, the Los Angeles Clippers are mysteriously absent — will play a total of four games featuring rookies selected in the 2021 NBA draft, as well as sophomores and athletes competing to make regular-season rosters in the G-League and throughout the league.
“We are excited to once again host fans in full capacity for the California Classic at Golden 1 Center,” Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé said in a statement. “In addition to the high energy games we have come to expect from the Classic, fans will enjoy world-class entertainment and community activations.”
Gonzaga Coach Remembers Spoelstra as Player
The trip down memory lane didn’t stop at coaching comparisons for the Olympic coaches this week. Mark Few, the head coach at Gonzaga University, shared some thoughts on Spoelstra as a player during his media availability.
Few was a “lowly assistant” for the Zags in the early 1990s when he first matched wits with Spoelstra who was a point guard at the University of Portland from 1993-95. Spoelstra averaged 9.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds in four years at the small West Coast Conference school.
“I coached against him when I was a lowly, lowly assistant at Gonzaga,” Few told reporters. “I had an opportunity to coach against Erik Spoelstra when he was at the University of Portland. And he was a great little player there, and super smart and super tough.”