Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, guard Wayne Ellington still with rooting interests in Final Four

 

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is rooting for one of old rivals, Gonzaga, in Monday’s NCAA title game. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

MIAMI – Erik Spoelstra does not follow college basketball that closely, mostly because he’s pretty busy during that time with his job.

But the Heat coach has had an eye on one team in particular during the NCAA Tournament and that team will play North Carolina Monday night for the national championship.

Spoelstra grew up in Portland, Ore., about five hours from Spokane, Wash., home of Gonzaga. And Spoelstra attended the University of Portland of the West Coast Conference. One of Portland’s rivals was fellow conference member, Gonzaga, which at the time had a graduate assistant by the name of Mark Few, its current head coach.

“It’s really a remarkable program they built that started all the way back to when I used to play against them,” said Spoelstra, who picked the Zags to win the title.

Spoelstra pointed out how Few has risen to a head coach in a similar way he has. Spoelstra started as the Heat’s video coordinator. Few went to Gonzaga in 1989 as a graduate assistant.

Spoelstra’s pick to win it all will be going up against Wayne Ellington’s former team (and pick). Ellington was the most outstanding player of the 2009 tournament, the last time North Carolina won the championship.

Ellington is confident the Tar Heels will add their sixth title despite the way they had to hang on in their 77-76 win over Oregon in Saturday’s semifinal.

“I didn’t like the way they finished the game the other night but I’m confident Joel Berry and Isaiah Hicks will play better,” Ellington said. “We’ll come out with the championship.

Berry and Hicks combined to shoot 3 of 26 against the Ducks.

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