Should Erik Spoelstra Be Considered An Elite Coach?

By Shane Phillips
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

You can say what you want about Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat. You might say that Spoelstra has been handed success because of the “Big 3”. You might say that Miami should win because they have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. You could even say that a toddler could coach the Heat and win a championship, but before you say any of these boneheaded statements, consider this article.

Since team president Pat Riley relinquished the head coaching position for his perch in the front office and appointed long time franchise member Spoelstra, Miami has a record of 260 and 134.

Spoelstra has led the team to five playoff appearances, 50 postseason wins, three straight NBA finals appearances and consecutive championships. He is the franchise leader in win percentage, playoff victories and titles, accomplishing all of this in only five short seasons.

Professional sports have chewed up and spit out a large quantity of coaches, with only a select amount experiencing success. Coaching is a career that undergoes intense scrutiny and unrivaled pressure.

For Spoelstra, the microscope is more focused than ever on South Beach. The “Big 3” has brought a never before seen media circus to Miami, and the pressure to perform is at an all-time high. This makes all of Spoelstra’s accomplishments that more impressive.

Yeah, yeah, you can argue that the “Big 3” deserves most of the credit and that without them, Spoelstra would be nothing. That is a solid and sound argument, but so is this argument: Think of the baggage and egos that come along with three superstars. Finding a way to happily mesh together three prominent players is like performing brain surgery.

The elite coaches have all dealt with the clash of egos and battle of the alpha males. Phil Jackson some how held together the broken relationship of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal; he managed to squeeze three rings out of that mangled mess.

Pat Riley fought the strong-minded with the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Miami. Even Greg Popovich found the happy place for the San Antonio Spurs over the last decade and a half.

Spoelstra has done a spectacular job in the handling of James, Wade and Bosh, as well as dealing with the media. Just because he has three star players to work with, does not mean there will be success.

Mike D’Antoni has been given a mess of stars while with the Knicks and Lakers, but he was run out of the Big Apple and his stint in the City of Angels is not a pretty sight. Having great players does not always translate into being successful.

There is no doubt that Spoelstra had a great team fall into his lap, but there is also no doubt that he has done an A+ job in the coaching realm.

So, is Spoelstra a top 10 coach? As for the active head coaches, he is top two (Popovich his only competition). Is he top 10 of all time worthy? Not quite yet, but he is sure on his way to breaking that threshold. He is still incredibly young for a coach, and is only entering his sixth season.

After a few more seasons and championships, Spoelstra will easily be considered one of the elite coaches of all time.

Shane Phillips is a Miami Heat Writer for Follow him on twitter @Smphil01, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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