The Miami Heat has an opening for an assistant coach.
But Erik Spoelstra said after Tuesday morning’s shootaround it is not planning on having former assistant David Fizdale rejoin the team’s coaching staff this season.
Fizdale was fired Monday by the Memphis Grizzlies in his second season as an NBA head coach. The Grizzlies named assistant J.B. Bickerstaff their interim coach.
The Heat has four assistant coaches on staff, which is one less than the maximum number allowed for NBA teams.
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“He’s not doing that right now,” Spoelstra said. “He’s going to take some time, as well he should. Since something like this happens so suddenly and shockingly, I think the best thing to do is to step back, which is what his plan is, and really disengage and then contemplate his next move.”
Before Memphis hired Fizdale on May 29, 2016, he spent eight seasons with the Heat, during which he was part of the Heat’s run of four consecutive NBA Finals and two championships.
Fizdale led Memphis to the playoffs in his first season before losing in the first round and having a 50-51 record overall.
The Grizzlies are 7-12 and sit in 12th place in the Western Conference on an eight-game losing streak. Fizdale benched Marc Gasol during the fourth quarter of the team’s most recent loss, which preceded his firing. Gasol expressed his displeasure with the move to reporters after the game.
Memphis general manager Chris Wallace told Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal on Tuesday: “There was tension between the two. This is a factor but it’s not the overriding factor. We talked to Marc in real time about the same time we talked to coach Fizdale.”
Spoelstra said he was disheartened by the news of Fizdale’s sudden dismissal.
“I had a tough time wrapping my mind around it and a tough time even sleeping last night, thinking about it,” Spoelstra said. “I talked to Fiz in the afternoon. It just shows you how challenging this league is. You think, as a young assistant going over there, moving cities to a new organization that’s transitioning, that you think it would be about the long game, and to have patience, and to be able to work through that transition, to be able to create something new.
And that takes time in this league. And that’s what was so disheartening about it. Yes, they were going through a tough stretch right now, but this league is uncomfortable. It is. It is when you lose and you get challenged as an organization, when you’re going through those stretches. But, on the other side of those stretches oftentimes are the greatest benefits, when you’re able to get through that adversity together.”
Spoelstra noted how Heat management showed patience with him and his staff after the team got off to a slow start during the first year of the Big 3 era when Miami opened that season performing below expectations.
“They got off to a great start and lost eight straight — it reminds me of our first year of the championship years, when we lost five straight home games,” Spoelstra said. “And our owner and our president just looked down and said, ‘Hey, figure it out.’ ”
Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each took to Twitter on Monday night after Fizdale was fired.
“I need some answers. Feels like my man was a fall guy,” James tweeted.
James later talked about it with reporters after the Cavaliers’ game Monday night in Philadelphia.
“I don’t know the details of it because I’m not around, but I know what kind of coach, coach Fiz is and I know how players relate to him and what he stands for,” James told reporters.
“He don’t stand for no [pause] … maybe that’s what it was? He ain’t going to kiss nobody’s [expletive]. That’s what it was.”
“I need answers!!! WTF,” Wade tweeted.
Udonis Haslem, who also played for Fizdale throughout his whole tenure with the Heat, said he was shocked as well. Haslem credited Fizdale as one of the coaches he could most relate to during his career.
“Great basketball mind,” Haslem said. “I can relate to him. He’s one of those coaches that can calm me down and get to me no matter the situation. We just spoke the same language, spoke the same lingo. We just really could relate.”
Spoelstra believes Fizdale will be a head coach again eventually.
“He’s a head coach,” Spoelstra said. “I would love to have him at least join as a consultant or somebody to break some bread and share some wine, but that’s not going to happen right now.
“He’s a brilliant coach. He’ll get another opportunity. But why does it even have to get to that, when every organization goes through those tough times? So, he can afford to be patient in his next move. Love to have him come visit us in Miami, but he’s gonna ponder his next move and take his time.”