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Is Erik Spoelstra’s job in danger? It shouldn’t be.

Jun 13, 2011, 5:11 PM EDT

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat - Game Six Getty Images

In Miami, the blame has to go somewhere.

LeBron James is getting a heaping share. So are all the role players. But you can’t fire LeBron and in the NBA when teams don’t live up to expectations it is the coach whose job is on the line. Fair or not.

There are those wondering if Erik Spoelstra will be back with the Heat next season. He’s a young coach on a team that is as “win now” as it gets. David Thorpe of ESPN thinks that may pressure the Heat into a move (as he told Henry Abbott at TrueHoop).

I wouldn’t fire him. But I suspect they’ll think they can’t afford to wait another year to figure out of he’s the right guy for them. If he is fired, he’ll be employed again very quickly. I think he’s a terrific young coach, and he’ll get better and better.

A lot of NBA teams think that way, Thorpe is right. Pat Riley, however, doesn’t think and act like most NBA teams. Most likely Spoelstra keeps his job. And one thing Thorpe says I can verify — if Spoelstra were let go he’d be in instant demand around the league. Other GMs and basketball people speak highly of him. He is young, hard working, gets the game and considering everything he had to deal with this season he did a good job.

But next season he may well be on a much tighter leash.

One question is who would you bring in? Pat Riley is there but he does not want to return to the grind of being an NBA coach. Phil Jackson is taking a year off and might be an odd fit with that roster and front office anyway. Doc Rivers stayed put in Boston. Mike Brown is with the Lakers. Who is left that you really want to bring in? Larry Brown?

The Heat struggled early in the season but what should matter, what Pat Riley will likely take into consideration, is how they improved as things went along. By the end of the season they Heat were playing their best ball, against Boston and Chicago they had the off-the-ball action, the “big three” worked more in concert than next to each other. Things really were coming together.

On the biggest stage against a veteran team that fell apart. But that is not all on the coach — the roster is not deep enough right now, and it usually takes teams some hard losses playing together to learn how to win a championship.

Spoelstra also seems to have the backing of his players. His pregame white board in the locker room (detailing actions) is one of the better organized, more detailed in the league. And Spoelstra is figuring out how to motivate this team, Dwyane Wade told Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

“He’s good at analogies, using what we’ve been through, throughout this year, and stuff like that,” Wade said. “He’s actually getting better at speeches, though. He’s had a couple of good ones in this postseason and we were like, ‘Yeah.’ So he’s getting pretty good.”

What they have been through is key — Spoelstra is growing like this team is growing. They are doing it together, they have been through a season unlike one any other NBA team has dealt with in terms of media scrutiny and the feeling about them around the league.

Spoelstra is one of them. He shouldn’t be let go, he deserves a chance to grow with this team and help it take one more step.

But he might not want to get off to a 9-8 start next season.

  1. vikesfansteve - Jun 13, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Pat Riley can get Ledouche to grow up & shut up. Riley will take over & the heat will win the title.

    • royalsfaninfargo - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:40 PM

      I assume by your name that you are a Vikes fan and cheered for Brett Farve. You calling James a douche is truly the pot calling the kettle black.

      • purdueman - Jun 14, 2011 at 5:35 PM

        LOL!!! Good one!!!

    • tashkalucy - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:54 PM

      Pat Riley’s vision is going. There is no way in the world he can coach an NBA season.

    • gandalf47 - Jun 15, 2011 at 10:12 AM

      Pat Riley won world championships with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and James Worthy, et. al. In Miami, he would have LeBron, DWade, and Bosh. Apples vs. oranges. Committed, team-oriented players vs. prima donnas (maybe Wade exempted). Also, that was more than 15 years ago, and the league is very different today. Nothing that Miami does will bring them a title until LeBron grows a set, and loses the sense of entitlement that has been handed to him his entire life. LeBron needs to take “his talents” and do more than make break-away dunks. He has to believe that he is capable of performing in the clutch, something that will be hard to do, since his track record is not so good so far, being 0-4 in his opportunities to win a title. What LeBron needs to do is grow the heart of a champion and a set of b@lls.

      To the question of the article -Spoelstra did a terrible job of coaching in these Finals. The time management of his key players was awful, he did a poor job of matching Dallas’ substitution patters, allowing Dallas to repeatedly come back from large deficits and gain confidence. Game 2 was the key to the whole series, and I put a lot of that on Spoelstra, who didn’t call time outs properly or substitute to try to match Dallas’ energy.

      I guess you can chalk that up to the “learning process”, but with the “Three Amigos” (aka The Two Amigos and Lebron James), the expectation (created by the Heat players themselves) was that they “didn’t need no stinkin’ learning curve” – they were going to win NOW, and keep on winning indefinitely).

      I’m just saying …….

  2. goforthanddie - Jun 13, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    Spo deserved CoTY based solely on handling that circus as well as he did.
    To those saying LeB would listen to Riley…Riley should tell LeB to listen to Spo, and not his posse.

    • Clayton Bigsby - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:39 PM

      Spo did a tremendous job. I was surprised he went as far as he did with practically a new roster. At least they were able to pull 2 games out of the series, unlike my pathetic Lakers who got swept by the the Mavs.

  3. chargerdillon - Jun 13, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    Mike Brown got the best job in the NBA after choking with Lebron for several years. It only seems fair that Spolestra gets more than 1 chance at it considering he coached the Heat to 2 games wins away from a championship which is far more than Mike Brown did with a #1 seeded team that choked

    • tashkalucy - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:56 PM

      Speaking of Mike Brown, let’s see how he does with Lakers this coming year.

      A very good chance that America will find ot that the coach wasn’t the problem in Cleveland the previous 2-3 years.

      • kesher10 - Jun 14, 2011 at 7:38 AM

        I agree with this. I’m not a Cavs fan but I always put the blame for their failings on Mike Brown. I mean, it couldn’t be Lebron’s fault right? He’s the golden child. But after seeing how he (under)performed on the biggest stage this year, I’m rethinking that.

        It will be interesting to see how he fairs with players that can handle the situation.

    • gandalf47 - Jun 15, 2011 at 10:24 AM

      I agree, too. Brown coaches Cleveland to be poised to win it all, and it wasn’t he who gave up in the fourth quarter against Boston. As was already observed, that theory was proved this year with James’ Houdini Act in the fourth quarters of these Finals.

      We all know that when expectations are “We must win it all or the season is a failure”, as all championship -caliber teams know, if the season is a failure, the coach is blamed and not the superstar. In this case, the THREE superstars. To me, however, a superstar is a player who delivers in the clutch. So, I ask, how many superstars does Miami REALLY have?

      In this case, I think there was enough blame to go around (except DWade, who is clearly the best player on that team).

  4. rajbais - Jun 13, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    He did a good job!!!

    The NBA’s CBA and Lebron cost him the title!!!

  5. martbear - Jun 13, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    What is this Phil taking a year off crap? He retired! He’s won more titles than anyone, and his body is breaking down from the stress of constant travel and worry about basketball. He’s old. He doesn’t want to come back.

    • tashkalucy - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:58 PM

      You can tell these kids in the Internet media that “2 + 2 = 4”, and they’ll be writing stories that next year 2 + 2 will equal at least 5, possibly 6 and maybe even 7.

    • purdueman - Jun 14, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      Not to mention that fact that Phil LOATHES greaser Pat Riley.

  6. silk32 - Jun 13, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    If his job wasn’t in jeopardy then it is now. For David Thorpe to openly speculate about Spoelstra’s job is “inappropriate.” For PBT to even quote the incoherent musings of David Thorpe simply because he works for ESPN is even more inappropriate. Is this the “Deadpin-ization” of the Internet where people make up stories all in the name of website hits?

    • david8726 - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:05 PM

      Dude, David Thorpe isn’t a reporter. He’s an analyst.

      His job is to analyze and give opinions based on his vast NBA knowledge (acquired from years of training professional basketball players). It’s not out of bounds at all for someone in his position to speculate on what the Heat organization may do to improve (and that includes possible coaching changes).

      Furthermore, he didn’t say Spo should be fired. As a matter of fact, he defended Spo, saying that if it were him he wouldn’t fire the guy.

  7. purdueman - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    As the fans like to sing on Chicago’s south side when the opposing pitcher gets yanked from the game, “Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, HEY! HEY-eh! Goooood Bye”. Heat that is. You might say that the pilot light has been put out on their stove!!! Buh-bye Heat now! Buh-bye!!!

    As for spoelstra? I asked our local grocery chain store manager when they are going to start stocking this Miami based no-calorie, very bland championship vegetable oil and he told me that they did briefly but 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 customers all returned it and demanded their money back because the product didn’t deliver on its’ promises!!!

    • damp1015 - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:48 AM

      Let me ask you, who is your team? Why do you constantly badger the Heat? I just don’t understand your hatred. It is sad that one person could feel so much burn for many others who do not have anything to do with their life.

      You are a sad, sad man.

      • purdueman - Jun 14, 2011 at 1:12 PM

        I’m not at all sad; in fact I was downright giddy Sunday night! Sounds like you’re a Heat fan though, so if anyone’s sad, it must be you. If you were here right now, I’d loan you my hankie.

  8. tashkalucy - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    What the Heat are going to do…….

    Who to blame…….

    Blah Blah Blah

    This is like reading ESPN stuff. Does ProhardballTalk discuss the Red Sox and Yankees all the time?

    You want to be a national site — discuss things nationally.

    You may all be excited about what the Heat do next, but Dallas is excited about the parade, and we basketball fans around America are turning the page. The heat have been shoved down out throats for almost a year, and we’re tired of hearing about them. They’re undisciplined players that quit if they don’t get their way. End of story!

    • mella21 - Jun 14, 2011 at 3:24 AM

      one hundred percent agreed, and Im a Yankee fan

  9. diablito0402 - Jun 14, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    Come on people, the lakers took a year off and gave the league a chance to crown lebrick, but hahaha mavs took the show, now the lakers will win the next few watch, ohh yeah and howard is coming this way also, so watch out southbitch bandwaggon fans.

    • damp1015 - Jun 14, 2011 at 9:54 AM

      Howard is not going to Lakers, that is almost certain. There are other teams that can take him and make a better run. Lakers have too many issues at hand. The Dynasty of the Lakers are taking a backseat in the NBA right now. Just like Dallas’ motto, the time is now; Grizzlies, Thunder, Blazers, and Nuggets all are strong teams that will make a run again. The West is now competitive, there will be no dominance.

      • purdueman - Jun 14, 2011 at 1:16 PM

        damp… LA is called “La-La Land” for a reason, and that’s because there are so many hopeless dreamers living out here, and the Laker Honks are one of those bigger groups.

        Laker fan feels that they have a sense of entitlement and like Kobe in Colorado, can simply take anything that they want. Why would Howard though want to go to an aging team with a new unpopular choice for their head coach? Won’t happen anyway because Jim Buss has labeled Bynum “untouchable”, and there’s no way the Magic are going to trade Howard without getting a good center back in return.

  10. silk32 - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    @David8726 My only point was that the thought of firing Spoelstra never entered my mind until Thorpe mentioned it. To speculate on whether a coach should be fired after leading a team to the NBA Finals is unprofessional at best, and a firing offense at worst. By the way, why are you co-signing for him anyway? That fact that “all analysts do it” is not a good response.

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