BOSTON — The Heat are in “rebuild” mode, but team president Pat Riley knows who he wants to lead the group through the process.
Riley made it clear in July when he was asked about Erik Spoelstra’s contract status.
“We’re working toward an extension that I do believe will come to fruition,” Riley said in the summer.
With Spoelstra in the middle of the final season of his current contract, the Heat confirmed this week that the 46-year-old received that contract extension over the summer. No formal announcement was made by the team when the contract extension was finalized in the offseason, but upon media requests the Heat confirmed this week that Spoelstra’s contract runs beyond this season.
Terms of the deal, including the length, were not disclosed.
“I would like to thank the Arisons and Pat for their continued confidence in me and my staff and are humbled in their trust in me as head coach,” Spoelsta said through the team. “It has been an incredible 22 years being part of the Miami Heat family and we will look to continue our goal of winning NBA Championships.”
Spoelstra is in his ninth season as the Heat’s head coach. It could end up being the worst season in terms of wins in his head-coaching career, as Miami enters Friday’s game against the Celtics with a 10-23 record (.303 winning percentage).
“I’m invigorated by it regardless of what the record is,” Spoelstra said of coaching the Heat this season before Friday’s game in Boston. “We’re able to step back with perspective and look at the big picture and guys are getting better, the team is getting better. We’re forming an identity that we’re getting more consistent to.
“We haven’t been able to close out games and I think that’s probably been the most frustrating thing. But I think in terms of defensive principles, defending at a high rate, learning how to win and learning how to make winning plays, sometimes when you have veteran players a lot of that is understood. With a team like this, it has to be developed. That’s an invigorating process. I feel grateful that I have an opportunity to coach a team like this.”
In Spoelstra’s previous eight seasons as an NBA head coach — all with the Heat — his team finished with a losing record just once, as Miami recorded a 37-45 record in the 2014-15 season. That’s also the only season Miami has missed the playoffs under Spoelstra.
That consistency is part of the reason the Heat have stuck with him. Spoelstra has served as the Heat’s head coach since the 2008-09 season, as he’s the second-longest active tenured head coach with one team behind just San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
“The last couple of years, there’s been some of the rebuilding process and retooling to where we are today,” Riley said before the season. “[Spoelstra’s] got his work cut out for him. Welcome to being an NBA coach. It’s not always going to be easy and sometimes there are going to be other challenges. But I know one thing about him, he’s competitive and excited and knows what the challenge is.”
Since the Heat promoted Spoelstra to head coach in 2008, there have been 101 coaching changes around the NBA.
Spoelstra led the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances from 2011 to 2014 with NBA titles in 2012 and 2013. He’s posted a 409-264 regular-season record and a 70-43 playoff record as Miami’s head coach.
Spoelstra has worked for the Heat since coming aboard as a video coordinator in 1995 — the same year Riley joined the organization. After serving a video coordinator, he was promoted to assistant coach before working his way up to head coach in 2008.
“His philosophy as coach to me is, ‘Bring them to me and I’ll coach them.’ That’s it,” Riley said before the season. “That’s the way it has to be right now. He’s very involved in the process all the time. Every single player that we talk about or sign, he gives the nod because I don’t want to send him anybody that he doesn’t want.”