MIAMI – The newest member of the Miami Heat family: Santiago Ray Spoelstra.
Erik and Nikki Spoelstra welcomed their first child into the world Sunday, before the Heat took the court in Indiana to face the Pacers. Spoelstra had left the team Saturday, when he learned on the way to practice that Nikki had gone into labor.
With the baby coming about three weeks early, Spoelstra then made his first mistake of fatherhood.
“Nikki called me with the doctor mentioning that her water broke and it looked like we were going to have a baby in the next 24 hours or so,” Erik said today following shootaround in preparation for tonight’s game against Cleveland.
“So, plenty of time to get back, but as naive as I was I made the comment to our doctor and Nikki on speakerphone ‘OK, is this a false alarm, fire drill?’ That’s when I proceeded to get screamed at. It wasn’t.”
As he found out. About 24 hours later Baby Santiago was born weighing 6 pounds, 8 ounces and measuring 19 inches.
Spoelstra, 47, met with his team just before he returned home on Saturday and already his mind was 1,200 miles away.
“I didn’t even have my bag packed for the hospital, which my wife and I went through that drill many times, that I was going to have my bag packed and ready,” he said. “I figured I had another at least two more weeks to do that. But, I went through that process in my mind, ‘OK what if it’s during the playoffs? What if its right before the playoffs? What if we’re on the road? What if we’re at home? What are we going to do?’ I just wanted to make sure I was going to be there for it.
“So I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t ready mentally or anything to get that call at that time. It shocked me.”
Spoelstra checked with General Manager Andy Elisburg about flight arrangements – returned to Miami in plenty of time to witness the birth – then told the team. And then. …
“I was speechless for the first time as a coach,” he said. “I didn’t know what to say or do. My mind was already gone. I was on a flight back to Miami. It was just a bunch of moving people in front of me. Dwyane (Wade) had to like hit me said ‘Hey Coach, say something.’ It snapped me back into attention.”
Spoelstra handed over head coaching duties to assistant Dan Craig and for the first time in his career was about to miss a game.
“We’ve seen Spo sick and he can’t even move and he doesn’t miss shootaround, doesn’t miss practice, doesn’t miss games,” Wade said. “I definitely gave him a hard time about missing a game.”
As a father of three boys, Wade was asked if he has any advice for Spoelstra.
“He’s going to have to let us out of practice a little earlier so he can get home to his son,” he said. “But not yet, just a congratulations.
“This is something as he will find out, this is the greatest love that you will have. And I can’t wait until he experiences it.”
Spoelstra said he saw about 45 seconds of the Heat’s loss to the Pacers.
“It was chaos during that time,” Spoelstra said. “I didn’t have much time. Not only did I miss the game, but I told the team I didn’t even have a chance to watch the game. It was on the phone and I could hear it, but there was a lot of action going on in that room.”
Spoelstra will be back on the bench for tonight’s game against Cleveland. The challenge now is to balance fatherhood and a very demanding profession.
“I’m going to embrace it, I’m going to enjoy it. Parenthood, just like everybody else it doesn’t (stop) when you have the job. Hopefully I can find balance. Hopefully I can find a better balance of life-work than I had in my 30s, but I was already going in that direction anyway.”