Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra gaining momentum in Coach of Year conversation. But can he win it?

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra watches his team during the first half of Miami’s victory at the Knicks on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Miami’s Erik Spoelstra name is coming up more frequently in Coach of the Year talk with the Heat solidly in contention for a playoff spot.

The latest are analysts Greg Anthony and Jeff Van Gundy.

Anthony declared Monday on NBA TV that, “if the Heat make the playoffs, Erik Spoelstra is coach of the year.”

Van Gundy, talking to Fox 26 in Houston, said his top two are Spoelstra and the Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni.

This follows what analyst Reggie Miller tweeted last week to his nearly 800,000 followers:

“My Coach of the Year vote goes to Erik Spoelstra, especially if the Heat end up making Playoffs.. Miami had to reinvent themselves..”

Miller went on to say Boston’s Brad Stevens, D’Antoni and Utah’s Quin Snyder are strong candidates but that each is “working with All Stars and potential MVPs.”

Spoelstra also received love from Hall of Famers Kevin McHale and Isiah Thomas on Monday.

McHale said he didn’t think the Heat would win 25 games and then “they started believing in each other. A lot of that goes to Erik Spoelstra.”

Thomas said the Heat “probably are the most physically fit team in the East.”

The Heat (37-38) have won 26-of-34 games after having the second worst record in the league at 11-30. Miami is No. 7 in the East by virtue of owning the tiebreaker over Indiana, 1.5 games ahead of No. 9 Chicago.

With Atlanta and Milwaukee tied for the fifth and sixth best records in the league (39-36), the Heat are two games out of the fifth spot.

Heat guard Goran Dragic recently posted a video on Twitter through “Uninterrupted” campaigning for Spoelstra to be coach of the year.

“In my opinion, he should win Coach of the Year,” Dragic said. “Everybody knows how we started the season and how we’ve bounced back, and a lot of credit goes to Erik.

“He’s an unbelievable coach, and a lot of players, we love to play for him. He’s putting the guys in the right spots and that’s how the players can thrive under his system. And he’s such a great communicator with all the players.”

FanRag picks Spoelstra over Washington’s Scott Brooks and D’Antoni and the praise has come from all corners, including his peers and his boss, Heat president Pat Riley.

The most recent coach to single out Spoelstra was Boston’s Brad Stevens. And Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy, whose team suffered a huge blow to their playoff hopes Tuesday, losing 79-96 at home to the Heat on a Hassan Whiteside tip in at the buzzer, said earlier this season that “there’s  not a better coach in the league” than Spoelstra.

Spoelstra, who was named the Eastern Conference’s coach of the month for February, likely has to get the Heat to .500 and into the playoffs to be a serious contender. If he does – and that could happen Friday when Miami returns home to face the Knicks – the Heat would become the first team in NBA history to reach .500 after being 19 games under.

Just three coaches in history have won the award coaching a team that was .500 or below, the most recent being Doc Rivers when his 1999-00 Orlando team finished 41-41 and missed the playoffs by one game.

One coach who won’t be voting for Spoelstra is Golden State’s Steve Kerr, who said Tuesday he believes D’Antoni has earned the honor.

“I think the fit with the roster and Mike’s philosophy has been perfect,” Kerr said Tuesday. “What he’s so good at is really giving his players confidence and belief. They’re obviously having an amazing year. My guess is that he’ll get the trophy. He’s earned it.”

The Coach of the Year award most is voted upon by the media. The National Basketball Coaches Association also recognizes a COY. That award, which will be named after Michael H. Goldberg, the longtime executive director of the NBCA who died in January, is voted upon by the coaches.

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Ghost stories: Heat’s Justise Winslow said door in room of team’s (haunted) hotel was moving


The Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City.
The Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Justise Winslow cannot wait to get out of Oklahoma City. And it has nothing to do with basketball.

Winslow is convinced the team hotel, the Skirvin, is haunted. And he has proof.

Winslow said he was in the shower today and a door in his room started moving. Unlike last year, when he and teammate Tyler Johnson were so spooked that they roomed together, Winslow was alone in the room.

“That really happened,” he said after today’s practice.

Now, he said he will not spend any additional time in his room other than to sleep.

“I’m just trying to get through this trip as quickly as possible,” he said. “I spend the least amount of time in my room. I go down sit at the bar and get me something good to eat. I don’t drink or nothing like that. I watch TV, watch football. But I don’t spend a lot of time in that room.”

Books have been written and endless stories told about the Skirvin, the city’s oldest hotel which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For Johnson, it does not help that he already has one fear, darkness, and when you add a ghost into the equation, he, too, is looking forward to Monday, when the Heat check out of the hotel before playing the Thunder.

“I don’t like them spirits and all that stuff, I don’t like to play around with it,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it’s a little bit more safer knowing somebody’s there.”

Goran Dragic, who does not believe in ghosts, said the story from last year was one player woke up in the middle of the night and the faucet was on but no one would confirm that today.

Johnson and Winslow did not share a room for this trip. Winslow said Johnson doesn’t have a phone he could not text him. Johnson said, with a smile: “We’re trying to separate.”

Johnson said he has always been afraid of the dark. When he was alone growing up he would sit downstairs with all the lights on. “I couldn’t be upstairs by myself,” he said.

When asked if he’s still afraid of the dark, Johnson said: “Not really, kind of though, sometimes. If you tell me enough stories I guess.”

Legend has it that a maid named Effie had an affair with the hotel owner and became pregnant. She was apparently locked away on the 10th floor and when the baby was born she was so depressed she jumped out the window killing herself and the baby. Now they say Effie targets mostly male guests.

“I’m not (on the 10th floor) so I feel a lot better,” Johnson said.

NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller once said he placed a water bottle on one night stand when he went to bed and it was moved when he woke up.

“That’s crazy,” said Dion Waiters, who does not believe in ghosts. “He just was tired or the house keeper probably moved it.”

Said Dragic: “Maybe he was sleepwalking.”

Heat forward James Johnson once had Derrick Rose as a roomie when Johnson was on the Bulls. Rose was too scared to stay alone and moved into Johnson’s room.

Although Rose chose the one teammate who is a second-degree black belt, Johnson said he does not know how is martial arts training would help him fight a ghost.

Udonis Haslem has a warning for any ghosts planning to visit his room.

“A ghost will have a helluva time,” Haslem said. “He might as well go to another room because he’ll have the fight of his life if he comes to my room. It will cost him so much trouble he’ll just say I’m just going to the next room. He’ll say, ‘not tonight, this ain’t the room I need to be in.”’

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