He’s 47, a father, and the winningest coach in Miami Heat history with a decade’s worth of head coaching experience now under his belt.
Erik Spoelstra, though, can’t switch his thirst for knowledge off.
So, he keeps studying and probing the minds of leaders every chance he gets. Thus was the case last month when he spent a day in Atlanta with Falcons coach Dan Quinn and billionaire investor Ray Dalio.
“I’ve visited quite a few people [this summer],” Spoelstra said with a smile Thursday as the Heat's summer league team prepared to take on the Sacramento Kings in the final game of the California Classic.
“That's the only one that got out [publicly]. So I'll comment on that. I like visiting coaches and business people and leaders during the off-season just to continue to try to get better and get different perspectives. Dan Quinn is somebody that I met years ago when I visited Pete Carroll in Seattle. I think he runs a great program up in Atlanta. The way he does things and connects with players, the modern day athlete, the environment he creates and the culture that he cultivates are so noteworthy that I wanted to see it firsthand. I've been a great fan of his for a while.
“Then Ray Dalio is someone that I read. I read his book this year and ended up studying him for a little while after that. Dan is also fan of Ray Dalio and all the stars aligned and we were all able to meet at the same time. It was one of the more memorable days I've had in this profession.”
Spoelstra, who arrived in Sacramento for the Heat's second summer league game on Tuesday, will be with the team when it continues its summer league tour in Las Vegas.
So what has he thought thus far of the play of forward Derrick Jones Jr., the Heat's newest addition to the 15-man roster?
“It’s the activity that we really like,” Spoelstra said of Jones, who had 24 points, 11 rebounds in Miami's opening game against the Warriors and then 21 points, five rebounds, four blocks and three steals in a win over the Lakers.
“[Summer league coach Eric Glass has] done a tremendous job of getting him to his strength zones. A lot of it is activity, multiple effort plays, running the floor, offensive rebounding, catch and go drives. Yes he’s put in a tremendous amount of work on his three-point shot but that’s not the priority.
“That’s only helping him with the rest of his game. But his game will be built around defense, taking the challenge against the better players on the opposing team and making multiple effort activity plays and he’s done that so far. So the continued challenge for him will be consistency, can he do it night-in and night-out. He’s made people recognize his two games and now they’ll probably spend a little bit more time on the scouting report and that’s good. That’s part of the maturation process. I’m looking forward to seeing how he competes.”
Spoelstra said the Heat felt like it got to know Jones Jr. well enough during his 14-game stint with the team last season that adding him to the 15-man roster wasn’t hard at all.
“He’s been terrific. He’s been all in with all the work. He wants more,” Spoelstra said. “Those guys tend to do well in our program. I was really happy for him when he signed the contract. It’s not easy in this league when you’re not drafted and then somebody cuts you. You have to show a level of grit and determination to be able to re-start. He did that, he trusted us to help him with that. His next step as a pro, it’s been fun to watch him improve.”
Spoelstra said Bam Adebayo, the team's first round pick a season ago, “had a great six weeks of training” prior to the start of summer league.
“EG has challenged Bam to be the loudest defender in summer league,” Spoelstra said. “So I hope you have heard him in the stands. The staff has challenged him to be the top rebounder in summer league and that’s defensive and offensive. We want the pursuit, the constant effort, the activity to keep on going to the glass and I’m seeing that. The other parts of his game he’s been developing and I want him to explore handling the ball more, being more offensive-minded, that’s what summer league is for. He’s put in a tremendous amount of time, his confidence has grown. I think he’ll be more efficient as summer league goes on. I’ve been very encouraged by what he’s done the first two games.”
Does Spoelstra think Adebayo has progressed enough in out of the box areas that it will translate to success in the regular season?
“I do because he is such a worker,” he said. “He has the skill set now. The next step is developing the confidence to do it in a game... But I want him to develop it, I want him to explore it even at the expense of making some mistakes in summer league because to develop the right decision making you have to go through real game situations where it goes well or it doesn’t go well and then process how you do it better the next time. That’s what these games and practices are for.”
Spoelstra said expanding Adebayo's range to the three-point line is not a focus this summer.
“When he has open opportunities on the perimeter whether that’s a drive or elbow catch or post catch we want him to be offensive minded first and not just a facilitator,” Spoelstra said. “He already really developed an ability to facilitate and hand off and create actions for other people. We want him to continue to do that. That will get better by being more offensively aware, looking at the basket more and his confidence will grow from that. If you see him in practice situations you can really see how much he’s improved his skill set, his ability to handle the ball, his ability to make open 16-, 18-foot shots, his ability to put the ball on the floor versus different coverages and to find a way to make plays at the rim. All those things have gotten better. Now, it's the application process of doing it in a game.”