Erik Spoelstra is the first Asian-American head coach in any of the four major sports and the first to ever win an NBA title, so the Miami Heat head coach has achieved a lot already. Being the head coach of the back-to-back NBA champions, Spoelstra is now in the talks as one of the best coaches in the NBA.
Is this fair and warranted?
Well, to be one of the best coaches in the NBA, one must be a consistent winner for an extended period of time, in my opinion. Guys like George Karl, Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers would fit this description, to name a few. Popovich is widely considered the best coach in the league and for good reason.
The veteran head coach has led the San Antonio Spurs to four league titles and five conference titles since taking over in 1996. He has taken them to 16 straight postseasons, won 905 games with the team along with 133 playoff wins, and has not had less than 50 wins in a single season since 1998-99 — a season that was cut short due to lockout — and they still won NBA title then, too.
Spoelstra is a relatively new head coach, however, so I will cut him some slack. Being the assistant coach of the Heat since 1997, he was in line to take over head coaching duties when the job opened up in 2008. At the very young age of 42, three NBA Finals appearances in a row and two consecutive titles is enough to put him in the conversation as one of the best coaches in the league, but the best?
No, not by a long-shot.
He has passed the first step of being a great head coach: win consistently. He has brought the Heat to five straight playoffs and has 260 career wins along with 50 postseason wins. For the next step, he needs to win for an extended period of time. Five years is not enough time to call someone the best of something.
One huge question mark is his ability to win without superstars. The Heat lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2009 and 2010, the years leading up to the addition of LeBron James. Many would argue that his success has been solely based on the fact that James led him there.
Whatever the case may be, Spoelstra is a winner and deserves to be in the talks of best coaches in the league. Is he the best? Not even close.