Spoelstra thru my sonBy Beth Celis
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LAST Thursday, I went to the Erik Spoelstra press conference at the Mariott Hotel near Naia Terminal 3 with an empty notebook and came home with the notebook still empty.
In hindsight, I realized I should have listened to the small voice that counseled me to skip the presscon and just stay home. The little voice cautioned me that the venue was too far from my Quezon City residence and the weather was not conducive for distant travel. It had been raining heavily the past days, flooding several areas in Metro Manila.
But I had promised my assistant editor Francis Ochoa that I would go, if only to share with him a bigger fraction of the 10-minute interview that had been allotted to our tandem. Thus when the sun shone, I picked up my bag, notebook and pen and headed for C5.
Unfortunately, my driver was not familiar with this route going to Naia Terminal 3. We overshot the highway and had to turn around to get to the road that we missed. By the time we got to Marriott, the (strictly) 30-minute press conference with Spoelstra was over, although I was just in time for the one-on-one interview, according to Francis who arrived at the appointed hour.
The one-on-one turned out to be a group interview. Before I could even open my mouth to ask my first question, in comes this girl from NBA Asia shouting: “Last question, last question!” And then we were shooed out to make way for the special media group.
I went home dizzy with hypoglycemia and nary a single dot on my notebook.
The day before, that same little voice was urging me to go to the Smart Araneta Coliseum, where Spoelstra was scheduled to make an appearance. A veteran colleague said I should have followed my instincts because the champion Miami Heat coach had watched Game 6 from start to finish.
My colleague said he also had the chance to speak with Erik face to face at halftime when they took time out for a 45-minute coffee break at the Atrium inside the Araneta with no less than Jorge Araneta.
At this point I had given up all hope of being able to write a really insightful column about the first NBA coach with Filipino blood whose career I had followed since he created an outreach program for Filipinos five years ago.
But I was in for a surprise when my son Raymond, who is an assistant coach at NLEX, called yesterday to brag that his team, without its five key players, had won over the Chinese-Taipei national team here in Manila for tune-up games in preparation for the Jones Cup.
He also casually mentioned that he just attended what he called The Culture of Champions: An Executive Coaching Session with Spoelstra where selected personnel and coaches of the MVP group of companies and teams had been invited.
“He spoke about a wide range of very interesting, informative things,” Raymond said. “Like how he had wanted to be a PBA player, although this desire never materialized. He said he almost suited up for Talk ‘N Text. Erik also talked about the reaction he got when he was first appointed head coach of Miami Heat. He said they questioned how he could be a coach overnight when he was so young, so raw, so inexperienced. He told them he only looked young because of his Filipino genes.”
“Erik managed to steer the Heat to the championship, but when he failed to win the title, he was blamed by just about everybody. Everybody speculated that he would be fired. He said it was written about everyday, broadcast on television and radio 24/7. He said it came to a point where he no longer read the papers and watch TV, especially ESPN.”
So how did he pick up the pieces, I asked.
“Well he said he consulted the experts—psychologists, champion coaches, not only of basketball but other sports. Then he abolished the triad of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. From thereon he said there would only be the Miami Heat team. No Big Three, no Small 12. The ceremonial commitment for this season was done with the players and the coaching staff signing their names in gold over a trophy painted in black.
One lady who asked Erik why he didn’t have a girlfriend got this answer: “Who said I didn’t have a girlfriend?” Then he laughed. He said that the lack of a girlfriend contributed to the championship. He said he simply had no time for his personal life.”