Miami Heat

Erik Spoelstra enjoying process of Miami Heat’s turnaround, knows work remains

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks to Josh Richardson and James Johnson during a game at AmericanAirlines Arena earlier this season.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks to Josh Richardson and James Johnson during a game at AmericanAirlines Arena earlier this season. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Since his team turned things around after an 11-30 start, Erik Spoelstra gets asked similar questions as the Miami Heat move from town to town.

One question: How did the Heat go from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings to a playoff spot so quickly?

The other is whether Spoelstra – who takes pride in his basketball acumen and path to this job through the video room – gets more gratification out of this transformation than other successes he’s enjoyed as head coach of the Heat.

Spoelsta, who is gaining traction as this season’s coach of the year winner, knows it’s probably too early to be answering either of them.

“Anyone else want to answer that?” Spoelstra laughed as the ‘turnaround’ question was asked of him before Sunday’s hard-fought 112-108 loss to the host Boston Celtics.

“We’re just trying to work habits, build habits on a daily basis. This team has developed some grit, some character obviously. But, our group developed that through a lot of the tough losses.”

The second question brought Spoelstra some pause.

Sure, seeing his team fight through adversity and continue to believe in what Spoelstra and his coaches were preaching despite the losses piling up has brought some sense of fulfillment.

Yet, Spoelstra reminded the gathered media on Sunday, he has been to the NBA mountaintop as coach of the Heat.

Miami, don’t forget, won a pair of NBA titles in 2012 and 2013 and played in the NBA Finals in all four years of Miami’s Big Three era (2011-14) with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

“I get the question ‘are you having more fun this year?’ and I think that would be a disservice, a short memory toward other years,” Spoelstra said.

“I love the craft of coaching. I have said this before, it’s an impossible craft. I feel blessed and fortunate to be with this organization and be able to work through some failures and tough times to make us a better coaching staff.

“But I like the different challenges that different seasons bring. It’s similar to college coaches; they get to coach different teams and it’s tough to compare them. This team has been allowed to develop and show persistence. You don’t get that opportunity too often – players or coaches.”

So, while this current run by the Heat may bring some satisfaction, it is by no means a finished product.

The Heat goes into its game Tuesday against Detroit with losses in three of its past four games and, although Miami holds a playoff spot, the challengers for that eighth slot in the Eastern Conference are right on the Miami’s tail.

Miami took Monday off from practicing following Sunday’s loss in Boston.

The Pistons, which came into the day a game behind Miami in the standings, visited the New York Knicks on Monday night. Miami will reverse the Pistons’ flight path following its game Tuesday as the Heat visit Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

“We are looking on to Detroit,” said Hassan Whiteside, whose team has nine games left.

“We have to focus on them now. We just have to get some wins down the stretch.”

▪ Although Udonis Haslem played at the University of Florida, he said he was "neutral" in his fandom while watching Sunday’s NCAA tournament game between his Gators and South Carolina.

The Gamecocks, of course, are coached by Frank Martin – who coached Haslem at Miami Senior High back in the 1990s.

“One thing I knew is,” Haslem said, “whoever won the game, I wouldn’t be disappointed with the situation.”

South Carolina beat Florida 77-70 as Martin and the Gamecocks advanced to their first Final Four.

“I’m happy for him," Haslem said Sunday night. “Every few years, you only come across a few people in your life that actually have an impact on your life for the rest of your life. Frank is one of those guys.

“It’s not just for me. I’ve seen what he’s done for other guys that I’ve played with. Kids in difficult situations at home, struggling academically, struggling socially, he’s one of those people that every so many years that you meet somebody that actually has had an impact on you that will last forever.

“Frank is one of those guys, so I’m happy for him.”

▪ Tuesday’s game will mark Miami’s final one at the Palace at Auburn Hills, the home of the Pistons since 1988.

The Pistons are moving from the suburbs to downtown Detroit following this season to join the Red Wings in the new Little Caesers Arena which is still under construction. The arena is near the Tigers’ Comerica Park and the Lions’ Ford Field.

The Red Wings will leave Joe Louis Arena, their home since 1979, when their regular season is done in a few weeks.

NEXT FOR THE HEAT

Tuesday: At Detroit Pistons, 7:30 p.m. (SUN)

Wednesday: At New York Knicks, 7:30 p.m. (SUN)

Friday: New York Knicks, 8 p.m. (SUN)

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