Erik Spoelstra moved to within a win of catching his boss, Pat Riley, for the Heat’s franchise regular-season record for victories.
Naturally, Spoelstra, 47, preferred not to discuss what it would mean to match his mentor for the most wins in Heat history. It’s not his style to talk about himself to begin with, much less before it happens — maybe as early as Wednesday when the Heat (13-13) hosts the Portland Trail Blazers (13-13). But somebody who played for both Spoelstra and Riley did have an opinion.
“It’s a helluva accomplishment,” captain Udonis Haslem said after Monday’s win over the Grizzlies moved Spoelstra to 453 career regular-season victories with the Heat, one shy of Riley’s 454 in 11 seasons in Miami.
“I mean you’re talking about Pat, a Hall of Fame guy. You get mentioned in that conversation or surpass him or break that record, it’s a tribute to Spo and how he’s grown and the work he’s put into it and the product the organization has put out there on the floor.”
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Haslem played under Riley for three seasons and won his first NBA title with him. He’s spent the past 10 years playing under Spoelstra, winning two more championships. There isn’t a whole lot different in the way they do things, Haslem said.
“They still preach defense, Miami Heat culture; their principles are still the same,” Haslem said. “Obviously Spo added some things offensively, some things he wants to do with the way the game is today. But overall, values and principles, defensively, everything is still the same.”
The difference for him between the two, Haslem said, is the way they command the locker room.
“Riles got a lot of history and been around a long time,” he said. “He had a lot of different stories to motivate you and get in your head. He picks his spot when to be direct and picked his spots when to tell his story. I don’t think Spo has as many stories as Riley yet.”
So what will happen when Spoelstra ties Riley and then breaks the record?
“Riles will be happy for him,” Haslem said. “It says he got the right guy for the job.”
Just don’t expect Spoelstra to spend a lot of time talking about it. Haslem doesn’t.
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Haslem said. “There’s still a long season ahead of us. The plan this season wasn’t to come in and help Spo break Riles’ record, the plan was to get to the playoffs and see where we can to from there. I’m sure he’ll be thankful he had the opportunity to break that record, but I know his mind is elsewhere.”