Things change over time in the workplace. People come and go, are promoted or demoted, and if you stay with a successful organization long enough, you’re bound to witness steady change.
Erik Spoelstra’s job as head coach of the Miami Heat has made drastic changes in short time.
Spoelstra, who started out as the Heat’s video coordinator in 1995, worked his way up to becoming Pat Riley’s successor when he was named head coach in 2008. LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwyane Wade in Miami in the summer of 2010, quickly putting the microscope on a 39-year-old Erik Spoelstra early in his head coaching career.
Over time we learned that Spoelstra was fit for that job. As Miami experienced their growing pains and talk even got louder about Pat Riley taking over, they didn’t waver from Spoelstra. He delivered by emphasizing a system that showcased his coaching ability from an execution standpoint while also displaying his ability to coach Hall of Fame talent. Spo’s “space and pace” model using LeBron James at power forward and Chris Bosh at center was part of the growing small ball dynamic around the league.
Spoelstra isn’t at all in the spotlight now like he was during Miami’s championship runs from 2011-2014. He had to make another adjustment when LeBron decided to return to Cleveland and the Heat traded for Goran Dragic during the February trade deadline of 2015. The Heat had bounced back with a playoff-built talent core of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Dragic.
The latest departure from the Heat roster — Dwyane Wade — imposes another seismic transition on Spoelstra. Not only did he lose his best player, but the heart of the franchise, setting the Heat back and resetting things once again for its head coach. Chris Bosh’s unfortunate health situation has panned out negatively with the Heat, also, leaving Spoelstra in an amazingly different coaching scenario than he was in five seasons ago.
Now led and anchored by Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, the Miami Heat are suddenly considered a mid-major NBA team. With less talent at his disposal, Spoelstra will have to coach this team with a different approach but the same principles, as in continuing to articulate playing with pace but also playing by committee. I’m particularly interested to see Spoelstra’s experimenting with his deep guard core. Dragic can be paired with Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, or offseason acquisition Dion Waiters, all of whom can score and make plays in their own spurts. Justise Winslow perhaps has the greatest opportunity to create a stronger presence for himself in Spo’s system as the primary swing forward.
As a team even less capable of relying on individual talent and experience, Spoelstra now has to coach a team that will desperately need coaching in order to prove something and compete formidably in the 2016-17 season.