Should-be NBA Coach of the Year Erik Spoelstra sat down with NBA super-reporter Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical recently for nearly two hours on a deep-dive podcast, which went into depth on various topics that included climbing the Miami Heat’s coaching ranks, how tough this past season was, and his personal influences.
One of the most compelling stories centered around a teenage Spoelstra attending Sonny Vaccaro’s Nike All-Star camp in New Jersey. He was just in high school at the time and played against future NBA stars like Shawn Kemp and Kenny Anderson, in addition to a future Hall of Famer who works by his side today.
“My teammate was Alonzo Mourning,” Spo said. “So years later when we ended up working together in Miami, I told him that story. He said he remembers me. There’s no way he remembers me. The only thing that he possibly could’ve remembered was that he yelled at me all the time to throw him the ball.
“But I ended up playing against this small, little point guard the first day I was there and I just got my butt kicked.”
That little white guy was Bobby Hurley, whose Duke resume includes two-time NCAA champion (1991-1992), first-team All-American (1993), and NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1992).
Spo said he thought his playing career was finished after leaving that camp depressed but he would go on to play his college ball at the University of Portland on scholarship as a four-year starter at point guard.
They also spoke of Spoelstra’s desire to run the Heat organization some day from Riley’s shoes.
“Short answer would be, I’m a Pat Riley disciple, and, like I’ve said, he’s always pushed me and nurtured me for the next steps,” Spoelstra said. “So yes, I’d love to have that opportunity years down the line from the Arison family because I believe in them so much as human beings. They’re such good people and family oriented.”
Then there was some entertaining chatter about David Fizdale, the coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, a former Spoelstra assistant, and superstar of a legendary coaching rant unleashed a few weeks ago.
“It’s pretty cool to see,” Spo said of Fizdale’s first year in Memphis, which was recently ended by the Spurs in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. “I don’t watch him with pride because that would suggest ownership in some way but it’s more of hey, we’ve both been on this journey, and helped each other out, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it.
“Fiz is a brother of mine. I feel like we have three more head coaches on our bench right now [and] it’s been fun watching and enjoying their development because of the environment.”
It’s a longgggg podcast but also a must-listen for any devout Heat fan because rarely does the humble Spoelstra go into such detail about himself.