MIAMI (AP) Erik Spoelstra is often described as the Pat Riley protege who was the hand-picked successor to become coach of the Miami Heat, and all that is accurate.
But Riley wasn’t his first coaching influence.
That distinction goes to Rick Adelman, and Spoelstra is hoping Friday night wasn’t the last time he would match wits against him.
Spoelstra grew up in Portland and was a big fan of the Trail Blazers when Adelman coached there a quarter-century or so ago. And before Spoelstra’s Heat faced off against Adelman and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, the Miami coach praised one of his sideline idols.
”I think everybody knows that he is probably the biggest influence in my life to get into coaching,” Spoelstra said. ”I’ve said it many times: I was a tremendous fan of him when he was coaching the Portland Trail Blazers and that was the first time, probably, that I thought that would be a pretty cool profession to get into. That was because of him and the role model that he was.”
Adelman entered Friday’s game with 1,039 career wins, eighth-most in NBA history. His future after this season has been the subject of speculation for months.
And in turn, after being told of Spoelstra’s comments, Adelman raved about the Heat coach who has found a way to make the basketball marriage of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh work to the tune of the last two NBA titles.
”It’s a nice compliment to have, because he certainly has surpassed anything I’ve ever done,” Adelman said. ”He’s always been … basketball’s been his life, whether he was in high school or college. He started as the film guy, worked his way right up there and gained Pat’s confidence. You can’t say enough about the job he’s done here.”
Spoelstra said every team in the league has some version of Adelman’s offense in their playbook, most calling it ”Sacramento” after what he ran while coaching the Kings.
”He was and has been an incredible innovator in this game,” Spoelstra said. ”I have nothing but the absolutely, utmost respect for him.”
Spoelstra entered Friday with 312 wins, and shook his head when asked if he could envision winning 1,000 like Adelman.
”No. Absolutely not,” Spoelstra said. ”It’s tough just getting through an NBA season. It really is. It’s a grind, for all coaches. His durability and the consistency of success is staggering.”