MIAMI – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference coach of the Month for February.
Spoelstra led the Heat to an 8-3 record, the second-best mark in the East, including a 5-2 road record. Miami won its first five games in February to extend its winning streak to 13, the longest in the NBA this season and the third-longest in franchise history. The Heat also won three of their final four games of the month, with each victory coming against a team currently in position to make the playoffs (Houston Atlanta, Indiana).
Miami, which enters tonight’s home game against Philadelphia winners of 16 of 19, ranked third in the East in scoring (110.3 ppg) and second in points allowed (101.6 ppg) during the month.
San Antonio’s Greg Popovich was named Western Conference Coach of the Month.
Other nominees in the East were Boston’s Brad Stevens, Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue and Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy,
This is Spoelstra’s seventh coach of the month award, the last coming in February 2014. All of his previous six were during the Big Three Era.
Spoelstra has been praised this season by his peers, including Dallas’ Rick Carlisle who said Monday that Spoelstra “has thrust himself in the conversation for coach of the year, without question.”
Carlisle said Spoelstra has, “taken the players that are available and gotten in and conceptually put together one of the best ball movement, drive and kicking teams that I’ve seen in 33 years in this league. They’ve got (Hassan) Whiteside on the inside rebounding and rolling and posting up. (Goran) Dragic and (Dion) Waiters are both playing at an All-Star level, and their role players are knocking down shots.
“They’ve made an amazing turnaround.”
Heat analyst Ron Rothstein, speaking on the Joe Rose Show on 560WQAM this week, has worked under Hall of Fame coaches Pat Riley, Chuck Daly and Hubie Brown and said Spoelstra “takes a back seat to no one.”
Rothstein compared Spoelstra to Daly, the former Jupiter resident who died in 2009. Daly coached four NBA teams and won two titles with the Pistons in 1989 and 1990.
“Chuck Daly was unique,” said Rothstein, who worked under Daly for two years in Detroit. “Chuck had a great way of dealing with stress and dealing with things that a lot of us would get our backs up against the wall and want to fight back.
“I think Erik Spoelstra is the closest thing to Chuck Daly of all the guys I ever worked with. He has that unique perspective to understand players and what motivates them and how you get the most out of them. It’s not the typical way a lot of us (do it). It’s different but boy it’s effective.”
Spoelstra, in his ninth season in Miami, has the Heat (27-33) in the playoff hunt after starting 11-30.
“Erik takes a back seat to no one,” Rothstein said. “He’s his own man, he does it his way, sometimes it’s a bit different, but he has the ability to get the most out of his players. He really does.”
Rothstein, the first head coach in Heat history who later returned as an assistant under Gundy, Riley and Spoelstra, credited Riley’s guidance for helping Spoelstra grow as a coach.
“Pat is there, he’s involved, they talk every single day,” Rothstein said. “Does he do everything that Pat wants him to do? No. Are there disagreements? Yes. That’s part of the process. That’s healthy. People don’t understand that Pat has been Erik’s best friend and mentor and been there for him.
“You as a head coach always want a strong man in that front office a leader, someone you can talk to and someone that will level with you.”