MIAMI – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra traded e-mails and had conversations with some of his peers this season when Charlotte’s Steve Clifford took a medical leave of absence.
Those conversations likely will return now that a second coach has been forced to step aside because of health issues.
Cleveland’s Ty Lue, 40, announced Monday he would be taking a break to focus on his health. Three times this season Lue’s health has prevented him from coaching an entire game, including Saturday against the Bulls.
“It certainly is eye opening,” Spoelstra said. “It definitely catches your attention. I’m sure all the coaches stopped in their tracks when they saw that. It is a unique profession. There’s no way to simulate this in a normal world, it’s tough to prepare for it. You can talk about it all you want, you can go through any kind of preparation in the off season but there’s nothing like an eight month NBA season with all the travel, the demands, the expectations and all the personalities you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s a scary thing.”
Clifford, 56, missed more than a month this season to deal with health issues including severe headaches. Clifford, in his fifth season as Hornets coach, took time off in November 2013 to have two stents placed in his heart after experiencing chest pains.
Lue took over as the Cavaliers head coach during the 2015-16 season. Previously, he was an NBA assistant for 5.5 seasons. Spoelstra, 47, is in his 10th season as the Heat head coach. Spoelstra has never missed a game because of health issues.
Denver coach Mike Malone, 46, believes the time of the year contributes to the stresses. The Nuggets are in a fight to make the playoffs in the West and played a double overtime game in Miami on Monday with the Heat prevailing, 149-141. Denver is in the midst of a seven-game, 14-day road trip.
“An 82-game schedule, with the travel and the demands of the season, is tough,” Malone said. “This time of year, the stresses and the pressure can really get to you. I think the key to me is having balance.”
For Malone, who said he would not want any other job in the world, that comes from his family.
Spoelstra believes the mental health issue will become a main focus among the coaches this offseason, just as it recently has become among the players in light of recent reports about Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.
Love revealed he suffered a panic attack during a game in November and DeRozan disclosed he deals with depression.’
“I’m glad the discussion of mental health now with the players is out there,” Spoelstra said. “This is something that also relates to coaches. I’ve talked about it with our team. I’m glad this is starting to get to the forefront now as well because all of us need to be extremely more mindful of all the demands and how we’re taking care of ourselves.”