October 31, 2008. After a preseason that saw him go through Bercy, Erik Spoelstra won his first regular season victory in the NBA, 103-77, against the Kings. At that time, however, no one could have thought that the epic of this former video assistant at the head of the Florida club was going to last so long.
More than twelve years later and with two NBA titles in his pocket, the Heat strategist thus signed his 600th career victory last night. A symbolic victory against the Spurs of Gregg Popovich who did not fail to pay tribute to the only coach who managed to beat him in the NBA final, in 2013.
“I really admire what he did, his rise and how he went through the different levels of the league to find himself in the position he occupies. He worked so hard, did such a good job, and it’s pretty exciting to see someone do that ”, did he declare. “We had some great battles. Our teams have competed enough, and at high levels, that we know what it’s like to go through it, sometimes at the top, sometimes not. So I think that a respect develops from that, but also an understanding as to the difficulty of these jobs and how lucky we are to be able to compete at this level ”.
Mutual respect between two great coaches
Sixth coach in history to reach the 600-victory mark in the same franchise, Erik Spoelstra was also grateful. First to the one who believed in him to replace him on the Heat bench in 2008, Pat Riley, as well as to Micky Arison, owner of the franchise.
“It’s a lesson in humility”, he said after hitting that symbolic bar. “Obviously, I always think of Pat and Micky for giving me this incredible opportunity to coach with this franchise. I feel a great responsibility to do it the right way for something that they started and created ”.
Erik Spoelstra also wanted to underline Gregg Popovich’s gentlemanly attitude, recalling how much he could be an inspiration for the new generation of coaches.
Like Pop in San Antonio, Erik Spoelstra has succeeded in cultivating and perpetuating a real “identity” within the Florida franchise, one of the reasons which explains, for him too, his longevity.
“He has always been an incredible example of class, of dignity”, said Erik Spoelstra about his Texas counterpart. “To be able to do that after wins or losses, I just think it’s a great example, which shows that you can always have class, no matter what the outcome (…). He was an amazing example, I think, for a lot of us coaches. We just watch how he operates and directs this program. They have a great culture, a great structure, but I think there is also a state of mind in order to grow, and an openness to be vulnerable and to learn different things ”.