Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra named NBCA co-Coach of the Year

Erik Spoelstra’s peers recognized him for the job he did in leading the Miami Heat to a .500 record this season. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

After nine seasons, two titles, four trips to the Finals and seven playoff appearances, the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra finally has been formally recognized as one of the  best coaches in the league.

Spoelstra was named co-winner of the inaugural Michael H. Goldberg National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award it was announced Sunday. He shares the honor with the Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni.

The award, voted upon by league’s 30 head coaches, is named for the longtime executive director of the coaches association who died earlier this year. The winner of the media voting will be announced June 26.

Dallas Mavericks coach and NBCA President Rick Carlisle recognized Spoelstra and D’Antoni.

“Congratulations to Mike and Erik on their outstanding work this year,” Carlisle said. “And somewhere up above our good friend Michael Goldberg is very proud.”

Spoelstra, 46, guided the Heat to the biggest turnaround in league history, going from 11-30 in the first half of the season to 30-11 in the second half. Miami is the only team in league history to finish at .500 after being 19 games under at some point during that season. The Heat tied with the Bulls for the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference but the final playoff spot went to Chicago because of the tie-breaker.

This, despite Miami leading the league with 328 player games lost to injury or illness.

Spoelstra is 440-282 in his nine seasons as head coach. The closest he ever came to winning a coach of the year award was following the 2012-13 season after Miami finished 66-16.  Denver’s George Karl won the media award with a 57-25 record. Spoelstra was runner-up, 214 votes behind. The season ended with the Heat winning their second consecutive title under Spoelstra.

In the other three years of the Big Three in which Miami averaged nearly 53 victories, went to the Finals each year and won the 2012 title, Spoelstra received one Coach of the Year vote. … combined. That was a first place vote in 2010-11. The next year 15 different coaches received at least one vote as did 10 different coaches in 2013-14 .

Heat President Pat Riley believes coaching this team, which lost Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and included seven new players, was a different challenge for Spoelstra.

“There’s always challenges when you have great teams that are supposed to win. … And then there’s this kind of challenge in which I think he’s handled with great experience and by staying the course,” Riley said.

Heat guard Goran Dragic posted a video late in the season endorsing his coach for the top honor.

“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.”

D’Antoni, 65, led the Rockets to the third best record in the NBA (55-27) and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference in his first season in Houston. D’Antoni improved Houston’s win total by 14 and put James Harden in position to become a legitimate MVP candidate.

Houston is D’Antoni’s fifth head coaching job.

Other coaches to receive votes included Washington’s Scott Brooks, Memphis’ David Fizdale, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, Milwaukee’s Jason Kidd, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, the Clippers’ Doc Rivers and Utah’s Quin Snyder.

Spoelstra and D’Antoni will receive their trophy at the NBCA annual meeting of head coaches in September.

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Heat coach Erik Spoelstra knows what Bucks are facing after learning Jabari Parker out for year

Bucks forward Jabari Parker is helped off the court after tearing the ACL in his left knee Wednesday against the Heat (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Bucks forward Jabari Parker is helped off the court after tearing the ACL in his left knee Wednesday against the Heat (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

The Milwaukee Bucks’ worst fears were realized today when Jabari Parker was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee and will miss the rest of the season.

Parker, who suffered the same injury during his rookie year of 2014-15, attempted to drive on Heat forward Luke Babbitt during Wednesday’s game, planted his left foot and his knee buckled. He fell to the ground and was helped off the floor and into the locker room by teammates.

The injury appeared serious from the start.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was concerned about the health of one of the league’s young stars following Miami’s 106-88 victory, its 12th win in a row.

“We see anybody go down we cringe,” Spoelstra said. “I hope he’s OK. It definitely (affected the Bucks). He’s a great talent. We’ve been on the other side of that, too, so we feel for him.”

The Heat have lost 224 games to injuries or illness entering Friday’s game in Brooklyn and have three injured players on the roster – Chris Bosh, Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts – who are not expected to return this season.

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The loss is devastating to a Milwaukee team that entered the season with high hopes. But the first blow came in September when 2015-16 leading scorer Khris Middleton tore his hamstring. Middleton returned Wednesday and scored five points in 15 minutes.

Parker’s loss is one from which the Bucks may not recover. Milwaukee has lost 11-of-13 games and, after have a 10 ½-game edge on the Heat just three weeks ago, have fallen percentage points behind Miami in the Eastern Conference standings. Both are two games behind the Pistons for the final playoff spot. Charlotte is a half-game behind Detroit.

Parker is second on the Bucks in scoring with a 20.1 average. He is shooting 49 percent. He played just 25 games his rookie season before suffering the same injury and undergoing surgery in January.

Bucks coach Jason Kidd said Parker’s rehabilitation will last a year.

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Bucks coach Jason Kidd says his players can learn from watching Heat center Hassan Whiteside

 

 

Hassan Whiteside overcame early fould trouble Thursday to finish with 12 points, 17 rebounds, 7 blocks. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Hassan Whiteside overcame early foul trouble Thursday to finish with 12 points, 17 rebounds, 7 blocks. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Hassan Whiteside’s night did not start as planned Thursday. He was removed after six minutes with two fouls and then about a minute after returning in the second quarter he picked up his third foul and took another slow walk back to the bench.

At halftime, the league’s leading rebounder and the Heat’s leading scorer had two points, four boards and no blocks.

Then came the second half.

The 7-foot center was a monster for the next 22 minutes. He finished with 12 points, 17 rebounds and 7 blocks, remaining the only player in the league to post a double-double in every game this season.

More importantly, he did not pick up another foul.

As a result, Miami overcame a 14-point first quarter deficit for a 96-73 victory over Milwaukee, snapping a six-game losing streak,

“I think it’s a great example for our young team to understand that you can get in foul trouble and still have an impact on the game,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “He did a really good job of patrolling the paint, protecting the rim. He had quite a few blocks, changing shots.”

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Whiteside and Kidd had a humorous moment in the second quarter when Whiteside was checking back into the game. Whiteside saw Kidd coming toward the scorer’s table, looked back and told Kidd he was one of his favorite point guards while growing up. Kidd smiled and told Whiteside he appreciated it.

Whiteside said after the game he has something to prove to his coach, Erik Spoelstra. Whiteside’s body language is not always the best, especially when he thinks calls are going against him on both ends. But he wants Spoelstra to know he can count on the foundation to the Heat’s next rebuilding project, even if he gets into foul trouble.

“I want to let him know he can trust me out there even if I have a couple fouls,” Whiteside said. “I’m not a guy who is just going to foul out. I’ve maybe fouled out twice the whole time I’ve been on the Heat. I’m not a guy who fouls out.”

Whiteside actually has fouled out four times in 132 games with the Heat, once in 2014-15 and three times last season.

Whiteside leads the league with 16.0 rebounds per game and is second with 2.73 blocks. He is averaging 17.6 points while shooting nearly 53 percent from the floor.

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