Riley's faith in Spoelstra, Heat sparked team turnaround in 2012 | Inquirer Sports

Riley’s faith in Spoelstra, Heat sparked team turnaround in 2012

By: - Reporter / @BLozadaINQ
/ 04:55 PM May 08, 2020

FILE – LeBron James of the Miami Heat is helped off the court after cramping up against the San Antonio Spurs during Game One of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 5, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

MANILA, Philippines—LeBron James boldly declared that Miami Heat would win “not one, not two, not three, not four, not four, not six, not seven,” titles but more when the franchise’s “big three” was introduced back in 2010.

That promise, however, ended at two as the “Heatles” era was off to a disappointing start in the 2010-11 season when they started with a 9-8 record.

That’s when talks of having team president Pat Riley return to coaching and replace former student Erik Spoelstra came about.

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Although the Heat eventually advanced to the Finals, where they lost to the Dallas Mavericks, there was still a clamor for Riley to replace Spoelstra.

Spoelstra, who is still the Heat head coach in his 12th season, said in an interview with NBA on TNT’s Ernie Johnson that it was Riley’s faith in him and the team that ultimately turned things around for the franchise and for him personally.

“The biggest statement was we finished up the lockout and resumed play. We came to training camp and it was the same group we had, we added Shane Battier a week later and we drafted Norris Cole, but it was the same group,” said Spoelstra.

With the Big 3 still in tow but now with James as the undisputed first option, the Heat rallied and took down Oklahoma City in five games to claim the franchise’s second title.

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“There were no changes in the coaching staff, it was the same group, and Pat was basically saying ‘you guys figure it out. There’s no cavalry, you’re not going to be blaming anyone, no excuses, and you’re gonna have to figure it out and get the job done.’ I think that was a real pivotal point for our group. And we had a great run to finish that season and beat OKC in the Finals.”

Spoelstra said that his first title run as head coach wouldn’t have happened if not for the stubbornness of his mentor.

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The two-time champion said that he usually drew the ire of Riley when he would mention that he would’ve been fired “three or four times” if not for the team’s culture of playing it out and staying in the original course.

Riley did experience a turbulent final two years at the head of the bench with Miami when the Heat finished with a disastrous 15-67 record just two years after winning the title.

“If I work for somebody else with a different organization, a different owner and president, I would’ve been fired probably three or four times,” said Spoelstra. “That 9-8 would’ve been a time to get fired, the media got hot, and everybody was overanalyzing all that.”

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“I think he probably gets more resolved when people are, getting all crazy and trying to force him to do something and that’s when he’s going to dig his feet even more.”

TAGS: Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat, NBA, Sports

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