Miami Heat‘s head coach Erik Spoelstra accepted an invitation to join the USA Basketball team’s coaching staff, and one of the main reasons he took on the job this summer actually has nothing to do with sport.
While Coach Spo is excited to practice and scrimmage with Team USA in Las Vegas, a roster that includes NBA superstars Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, and Zach LaVine, the deciding factor in taking on the new gig was that his wife, Nikki Sapp Spoelstra, a former Heat dancer, and their two children, Santiago and Dante, will be joining him in Sin City.
“That’s the great thing about the U.S. program,” Spoelstra said, as reported by Miami Herald‘s Anthony Chiang. “[Team USA managing director] Jerry [Colangelo] and coach K and Pop have all stressed that it’s a family affair, and it really is family inclusive. So yes, my family will be coming out there at some point to Vegas and have a lot of pool time. I don’t know if I’ll be in the pool the whole time, but they’ll have a lot of pool time.”
Spoelstra and his wife married in 2016. Their eldest son, Santiago, was born in March 2018. Dante, their second son, was born in December 2019. This summer will be Spoelsta’s first time ever working with USA Basketball. The first on-court portion of training camp starts on July 6.
Spoelstra Is Also Excited to Work Alongside the Great Gregg Popovich
Another huge reason Spoelstra decided to accept the invitation to work with USA Basketball instead of relaxing at home over the summer was the prospect of spending time with Gregg Popovich, the head coach designated to lead the men’s Olympic team in Tokyo.
Spoelstra is the second-longest tenured coach in the NBA, just behind Popovich, the latter of whom has been the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs since 1996. Popovich and Spoelstra coached against one another during the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals.
“I’ve admired Pop for a long time,” Spoelstra said. “He’s the standard of excellence in our profession, but he’s also the example of how you can operate in this profession with grace and humility.”
“Just being around the coach who’s arguably one of the best that has ever done it,” Spoelstra said. “And in this kind of setting, there’s just going to be some incredibly talented and bright minds. Not only Pop, but Steve [Kerr], Lloyd [Pierce], and Jay [Wright]. And the players. I’m looking forward to just being in the gym with all these great players. I think as coaches, we’ve all had our greatest moments of learning from our players, and this assembly of greatness in one gym is really unique.”
Spoelstra Believes it’s the ‘Best Thing’ for Heat Star Bam Adebayo to Train With Team USA
Spoelstra will have one of his own players joining him in Las Vegas, All-Star Bam Adebayo, who was overlooked by Popovich from making the official team in 2019.
“I’m thrilled for Bam, for this experience,” Spoelstra said. “He has been in the program. I think he was better for it from the last experience, even though that was only a week. He’s a much different and much-improved player from two summers ago.”
“The opportunity to be around that group of great players, an incredible environment, to have Hall of Fame, world-class coaching, and super-intense, high-level competition I think is the best thing for his player development,” Spoelstra continued. “There couldn’t be any better road map for a summer, an offseason for Bam, where he is in his career, than to do this at this stage. And then to go to Tokyo and have an opportunity to compete for a gold, that’s a life experience.”