Erik Spoelstra is grateful for the stability he’s had in his eight seasons as coach of the Miami Heat, and Thursday’s dismissal of Frank Vogel after a successful 5 1/2-year run with the Indiana Pacers only hammered that point home more.
“That’s really disturbing, actually,” Spoelstra said when he was told that he and Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who is in his fifth season, are now the two longest-tenured coaches in the Eastern Conference.
“That’s a sad state of the coaching profession right now and stability of organizations. That’s why it’s fairly easy for me to feel grateful for being part of this organization for 21 years. Same group. When we say it’s a family, we are. We’ve been through everything.
“We’ve been through 15-win seasons together, put together teams, re-built teams. We know how each other responds in the trenches when it’s tough. But you have to be able to also have opportunities to grow with a team and go through the tough times. You don’t get that opportunity when you’re making changes all the time. I probably would’ve been fired two or three times in a different organization.”
Vogel, who won 58 percent of his games with Indiana in five-plus seasons, led the Pacers to the playoffs every season except the year All-Star Paul George was lost to a horrific knee injury and twice pushed the Heat hard in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Pacers president Larry Bird has long argued coaches’ voices can grow stale after three seasons and reiterated the point Thursday that a coach’s message can get lost in the locker room.
“Lost on who?” Spoelstra said when told of Bird’s comments. “Teams’ rosters change every two or three years. My voice is new to virtually everybody in this locker room. It’s the same with Dwyane [Wade] and [Udonis Haslem], that’s it. But that voice has also been different as a video coordinator, as an assistant coach, as a scout, as a head coach. Just look around the league at the teams with great, consistent continuity and see how their record is over the years.”
As it stands, the only other coaches with at least four years’ tenure aside from Spoelstra and Casey are San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich (20 seasons), Dallas’ Rick Carlisle (eight seasons) and Portland’s Terry Stotts (four seasons).
Casey called Vogel’s firing “unfortunate.”
“Our business is tough,” Casey said. “I texted him [Wednesday] and told him to hang in there. You hate to see another coach lose their profession, lose their job at any level. That’s the crappy part of this thing. He’ll land on his feet. He’s a good coach. He’s an excellent coach. He made a lot of adjustments. They’ve been one of the top defensive teams in the league over the years while he’s been there. Again, the grass always looks greener on the other side.
“He will bounce on his feet because he’s a good man and he’s a good coach.”
The NBA’s Last Two Minute Report cited Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas for two illegal screens that weren’t called by officials late in Game 1, and Casey said Thursday morning he believes referees will be more vigilant about how they are being set in the series for both teams.
“That’s what the process is there for — to make sure you see things and show things both ways,” Casey said. “They look at more than the last two minutes [and overtime]. The last two minutes is the only thing that’s publicized.”
Casey said ultimately teams feel their way through screens with officials “to gauge how the officials are calling it