Erik Spoelstra said he was on the Miami Heat’s team bus and on his way to practice Saturday afternoon in Indiana when he got a phone call he was not expecting from his wife, Nikki, and her doctor.
The news: Nikki’s water had broken and the Spoelstras were going to have their first child within the next 24 hours. Even then, Spoelstra recounted with a grin Tuesday morning after shootaround, he had to make sure it was really happening.
“As naive as I was I made the comment to our doctor and Nikki on speakerphone ‘OK, is this a false alarm, fire drill?’,” Spoelstra said. “That’s when I proceeded to get screamed at. It wasn’t [a false alarm].”
Spoelstra, 47, made it out of snowy Indianapolis with plenty of time to spare for the birth of his son, Santiago Ray, who came into the world Sunday weighing 6 pounds, 8 ounches and 19 inches long just before the Heat took on the Pacers.
It’s a moment the winningest coach in Heat history — who had never missed a game in his 10 seasons as coach before Sunday — will not soon forget.
“Life-changing obviously,” Spoelstra said. “Mom is great. Baby is great. Santiago Ray Spoelstra – it’s been a blessing for us the last couple days.”
“I’m going to embrace it, I’m going to enjoy it,” Spoelstra continued. “Parenthood, just like everybody else, it doesn’t [stop] when you have a 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.”
Spoelstra, whose wife and son will be getting out of the hospital on Wednesday, said the reason he was caught off guard was because his son was due to be born in about three weeks, right around the start of the playoffs.
“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,” Spoelstra said. “I went through that process in my mind, ‘OK what if it’s during the playoffs? What if it’s 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.
“I got off the bus [Saturday] and the only thing I got to do was talk to [general manager] Andy [Elisburg] and see what kind of arrangements we made. When I told the team they were thrilled. A lot of the guys grabbed me and tackled me. I was speechless for the first time as a coach. I didn’t know what to say or do. My mind was already gone. I was on a flight back to Miami. So it was just a group of people moving in front of me. Dwyane [Wade] had to like hit me said ‘Hey Coach, say something.’ It snapped me back into attention.”
Spoelstra said he didn’t get a chance to watch much of Sunday’s loss to the Pacers at all.
“We caught about 45 seconds of the game,” he said. “We’ve got a picture of us watching [the game] on my father-in-law’s phone. It was chaos during that 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.”
Assistant Dan Craig filled in as coach.
“He did an awesome job,” Spoelstra said. “DC and I were talking before the OKC game and I just told him that when I was that age I was becoming the head coach of the Heat at that time but I told him, you’re 1,000 years ahead of where I was at that time. DC’s so much further advanced than I was even my first game. I didn’t know what I was doing. DC’s a well schooled, well drilled basketball coach. This guy’s ready to be a head coach right now in the league. He can certainly handle one game.
“I was bummed we weren’t able to get the win,” Spoelstra continued. “But I thought the staff, players did a tremendous job again to put us in the best position to win a tough road game. Indiana’s a good team. They’re under the radar to everybody that hasn’t played them.”
Wade, a father of three boys, said Spoelstra is going to have to start ending practices “a little earlier” so he can get home to his family. He also playfully gave Spoelstra a hard time Tuesday at shootaround for missing Sunday’s game.
“We’ve seen Spo like sick, he can’t even move, and he don’t miss shootaround, don’t miss practice, don’t miss games,” Wade said. “So, I definitely gave him a hard time about missing the game, but also just congratulated him. This is something he will find out — this is the greatest love you will have. And, I can’t wait until he experiences it.”