When we heard that Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went to Knoxville, three weeks ago, to address the University of Tennessee football team, we brushed it off as him just doing a favor for a friend like Volunteers coach, Butch Jones.
But when the story broke of Spoelstra going to Washington to speak with the Seattle Seahawks, something felt familiar. Then it all started to click. Coach Spo is more like his mentor than we thought.
“For him to be able to talk about how his basketball team was successful and the way that they went about their business in terms of sacrificing . . . just that whole idea of sacrificing everything, the players, LeBron [James] coming to Miami, and Dwyane Wade sacrificing all that, all that type of sacrifice that it takes to be great and to be great so often, is kind of what he talked about for the most part,” Russell Wilson said on a video posted on the Seahawks’ website.
“And having that discipline… that’s the main message he gave. And it clicked right with us.”
That’s the familiar feeling that I was talking about. That ability to make a team feel the utmost confidence in their abilities before they even touch the floor – or in that case the field. It had Pat Riley written all over it. The only difference is that Riley, allegedly, pulls in more than $50,000 per speaking session. A paid motivator if you will.
I’m not sure if Spoelstra has graduated to the Armani suits yet, however the similarities go way beyond style and motivation. They both have to juggle egos.
Riley had Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, while coach Spo has to deal with Chris Bosh, Wade and James — different names but the same spectacle when the Heatles and Showtime Los Angeles Lakers flew into every town.
Even down to the 6-foot-8-plus ball handler leading the team and being denied a three-peat after three consecutive NBA Finals runs. But Spoelstra has a chance to do something that Riley never did with a fourth trip.
I guess that’s why the master handpicked his student to be his successor before he even retired.
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