Dec 16, 2011, 2:33 PM EDT
It was one of the cloud of questions hanging over the Miami Heat last year: Does Pat Riley really trust Erik Spoelstra to coach the team, or does he have someone else in mind? (Maybe someone in a sharp suit with slicked-back hair.)
You can check that off the list.
Pat Riley said the Heat have given Spoelstra a contract extension, according to a tweet from Tom Haberstroh of ESPN. The deal adds two seasons beyond this one for a total of $6 million. Riley added the Heat have one of the great young coaches in the league, a guy on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
Conspiracy theorists will argue this doesn’t make a difference — you can sack Spoelstra just as easy now, the buyout is just a little larger. And this much is true — there is pressure on whoever coaches the Heat right now because they are contenders and should be winning rings in the next few years.
But Spoelstra is Riley’s guy. His protégée, not someone filling space until a real coach comes along. The players respect Spoelstra, they trust him. LeBron James trusts Spoelstra. Dwyane Wade trusts Spoelstra. He took them to the NBA finals. That bond is formed. A new coach would mean time needed to learn a new system and it would mean changes to how Riley likes things done. Spoelstra is more of an extension of Riley who does not threaten his power in the organization.
This is real. Spoelstra is not going anywhere, not for a while. But the pressure is on everyone in Miami to win.