The Basketball Hall of Fame keeps its electors secret. But if a Van Gundy is on the selection committee when Erik Spoelstra comes up, the Miami Heat coach might have nothing to worry about.
During the recent NBA playoffs, even before Spoelstra won his second straight championship coaching the Heat, ABC analyst and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy said Spoelstra is “going to the Hall of Fame. He’s that good.”
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Now, the broadcaster’s brother is joining the chorus.
“I definitely think he’s a Hall of Famer,” Stan Van Gundy, a former Miami and Orlando coach who once had Spoelstra on his Heat staff as an assistant, told FOX Sports Florida.
But there is one difference. Jeff Van Gundy has spoken about Spoelstra bound for the Hall with such conviction it seems as if he wants a game stopped so Spoelstra can be enshrined. Stan Van Gundy at least figures Spoelstra, 42, must coach longer than his current five years to get into the Hall in Springfield, Mass.
“I don’t know if anybody would put anybody in (the Hall) on a five-year coaching career, but the interesting thing is if he coached 10 (more) years and never got to another NBA Finals, he’s already got more accomplished than most of the coaches that go into the Hall of Fame,” said Stan Van Gundy, now an analyst for NBC Sports Radio. “He just needs to stick around longer. There’s no reason he won’t. He can coach another 20 years at his age and you’d be talking about him with Phil Jackson and stuff. I don’t know if he wants to do that, but he can really rise that high in the coaching profession.”
What Spoelstra doesn’t want to do now is talk much about Van Gundys calling him bound for Springfield. When asked Saturday about Stan Van Gundy echoing his brother’s Hall endorsement, he first said such a subject was “ridiculous.” But then he did note those are his friends talking.
“The Van Gundys, it’s widely documented that I’m very close to them,” said Spoelstra, who has a career coaching mark of 260-134 and who also led the Heat to the 2011 Finals before they lost to Dallas. “Stan is one of my closest friends and through Stan I’ve gotten to know Jeff over the years. They’re just great people. The Van Gundys have had a major influence on my coaching career, in particular Stan.”
Whether the Van Gundys are close to him or not, it can’t be denied Spoelstra, while he doesn’t have an induction secured now, is well on the road to one. He’s one of just 13 NBA coaches to have won two or more titles.
Of the previous 12, seven are in the Hall of Fame and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich is a lock to be enshrined. The other four not in are Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Tom Heinsohn and Rudy Tomjanovich, who each have two titles. Russell, Jones and Heinsohn are in the Hall as players.
A third championship would make Spoelstra a lock for the Hall and put him in very rare company. The only coaches to have won that many NBA titles are Hall of Famers Jackson (11), Red Auerbach (nine), John Kundla (five) and Heat president Pat Riley (five) in addition to Popovich (four).
If Spoelstra’s Heat win next year’s crown, he would join Jackson, Auerbach and Kundla to become just the fourth coach in NBA history to have won three in a row. Jackson did it three times, twice with Chicago and once with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Auerbach once had an eight-year run with Boston.
It’s taken a while, though, for Spoelstra to get his due as a coach. With there being a belief all he must do is roll out the balls to Heat stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he didn’t get a single vote (three coaches were named on each of 119 ballots) in the 2012 race for Coach of the Year. Spoelstra at least finished second in the voting last season, when the Heat went an NBA-best 66-16 and had a 27-game winning streak, the second-longest in league history.
“I think he’s finally starting to get his due,” said Stan Van Gundy. “Still, not as much as he deserves. He’s absolutely one of the best coaches in the NBA. He’s got a very difficult job. The expectations are extremely high in getting three guys like that who have been at the top of the league as guys who can be go-to guys, getting them to play that well together, getting them to focus on the defensive end of the floor and getting them to handle all the expectations and everything. He’s done an incredible job. He and Gregg Popovich, there’s nobody better than those two guys in the NBA right now.”
Spoelstra and Popovich recently met in the Finals, with the Heat winning in seven games. As far as the Van Gundys are concerned, they’ll meet up again one day in the Hall of Fame.