PHILADELPHIA – With the Heat on a 13-game winning streak, one NBA coach is touting Miami coach Erik Spoelstra as the best in the league.
Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy, who worked with Spoelstra in Miami, is recognizing what Spoelstra is doing with a team that was thrown together this summer and expected to be in a rebuilding year.
Van Gundy believes nobody is doing it better.
“There’s not a better coach in the league than Erik,” Van Gundy told reporters Friday. “People discounted him because he had LeBron (James), (Dwyane) Wade and (Chris) Bosh. Gregg Popovich is one of the best ever. Phil Jackson best ever. Nobody goes to four straight Finals. Nobody. He did.
“Those other great teams have not. But even before he had those guys, he had them in the playoffs. And now look what he’s doing in Miami.”
Spoelstra has the Heat one game out of eighth and final playoff spot, which currently is held by Van Gundy’s Pistons. And he’s done this with the Heat having lost three players, including Bosh, for the season along with dealing with several other injuries.
Spoelstra has never been named coach of the year. The highest he’s finished is second in 2013.
“I think what Miami has shown is the value of those guys, who are good players and are in a situation where they have to prove something,” Van Gundy said. “Erik’s done a great job of getting those guys to play to their strengths and implementing a system that really works for them. Certainly, in my mind, and there’s a lot of them going on, but certainly in mind, it’s the best coaching job that’s gone on this year.”
The Heat are shooting 49 percent from the floor and a league-best 42 percent on 3-pointers during the streak while having boosted its defensive efficiency to No. 6 in the league. The Heat’s average margin of victory during the streak is 10.5 points, second to the Warriors.
“It’s interesting to see how they’ve transformed,” Van Gundy said. “Because they started the year as a young team and they were going to try and develop these young guys. And they’ve got a few young guys playing, but they’re really being carried by (Goran) Dragic, who’s having a great year, Dion Waiters, James Johnson,(Hassan) Whiteside. The young guys still play some, Okaro White, Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder, but they’re really being carried by guys who are sort of veteran, journey-man guys.”
Van Gundy worked for the Heat for more than 10 years, including two-plus years as the head coach with Spoelstra as one of his assistants.
A victory over the 76ers tonight would be Miami’s 14th straight, equaling the second longest in team history, and move the Heat to within one/half game of the eighth spot in the East.