Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy and Dallas’ Rick Carlisle have given the Heat’s Erik Spoelstra ringing endorsements over the past few weeks for doing the NBA’s best coaching job this season.
On Wednesday, the league honored Spoelstra as the best coach in the Eastern Conference for the month of February after he led the Heat to an 8-3 record, including a 5-2 mark on the road.
Naturally, Spoelstra, 46, preferred to campaign for point guard Goran Dragic, whom he said deserves consideration for February’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month award.
“Those kind of things make every coach feel awkward,” said Spoelstra after he finally got done playfully explaining why Dragic (22.5 points, 53.8 field goal percentage in February) deserves the honor over four-time league MVP LeBron James.
“It’s a culture award, it’s an organization award, that’s how we view it,” Spoelstra continued. “If it happens it usually means there has to be some wins involved. As an organization we’ll take it.”
The Heat, which has had players combine to miss more games (245) than any other team this season and has nine former D-League players on the roster, began 11-30 before putting together a league-best, 13-game winning streak, which ended Feb. 11 with a loss at Philadelphia.
The turnaround started on the offensive end. The second-worst scoring team in the league through its first 41 games, Miami averaged 110.3 points per game in February, the second-highest scoring month in team history (only a 110.9 average in January 1992 is higher).
Spoelstra, who has now been named the Eastern Conference’s Coach of the Month seven times, entered Wednesday’s game against the 76ers with 426 career regular-season wins, the second-most in team history and only 28 behind Pat Riley for the most ever.
Heat analyst Ron Rothstein, who worked under Riley and fellow Hall of Fame coaches Chuck Daly and Hubie Brown, said on the “Joe Rose Show” on WQAM earlier this week that Spoelstra “takes a back seat to no one.”
“Chuck Daly was unique,” Rothstein said. “Chuck had a great way of dealing with stress and dealing with things that a lot of us would get our backs up against the wall and want to fight back.
“I think Erik Spoelstra is the closest thing to Chuck Daly of all the guys I ever worked with. He has that unique perspective to understand players and what motivates them and how you get the most out of them. It’s not the typical way a lot of us [do it]. It’s different. But boy it’s effective.”
▪ The Heat honored longtime Miami Herald photographer Hector Gabino, who died Saturday in Miami at the age of 51 after a battle with cancer, with a moment of silence and a 30-second video montage of his photos before Wednesday’s game.
Gabino, who was hired by el Nuevo Herald in 1994 and covered many major South Florida events, was best known for documenting the Heat during its glory years with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He covered the team for 20 seasons.
Funeral services will be held from 8-11 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Park Funeral Home, 9800 S.W. 24 St. in Miami.