Coach Spo Gots To Go

Erik Spolestra is the head coach of my favorite team in the NBA, The Miami Heat. By all accounts Spolestra is a nice guy and a tireless worker, so I hope he can find a job coaching one of our rivals for the man is incompetent.  Sports should be about joy and escapism, but as I turn on the game I find myself spouting out curse words, expecting the worst and usually receiving it. He has made watching my favorite athletes a frustrating experience.

I know it’s irrational to hope a head coach of a sports team you don’t play for loses their job.  George W. Bush was the last person I’d never met who I wanted to be axed so desperately. Fortunately US Presidents have term limits. Basketball coaches have contracts which can be extended or paid off. (I suppose I also asked for Scott Foundas, film critic of the LA Weekly to be fired, but let’s stay focused on basketball.)

One of the responsibilities of being a coach in the NBA is about preparing your players for a game. According to commentators and basketball analysts more versed in the nuances of the sport, Spolestra is especially qualified in this respect. I have no exposure to practices or video sessions. I’ll assume since he got his start as the Miami Heat’s video coordinator that he excels at this function. What I do have access to are his dysfunctions as a game manager.

Forget about the fact that he looks extremely frazzled  with his hair sticking out in every direction and the look in his eyes of a lost child searching for his mother. Even though it is natural for a team to take cues from the demeanor of their leader, we’ll assume that since these are professionals, that seeing their coach so distraught will not make them any less confident in their abilities to execute.

Let’s start with his substitutions. Dwyane Wade makes the starting five of the best basketball players in the world, yet there are 33 players in the NBA who average more minutes than him. Basketball is a contact sport, so I suppose the more minutes he plays the higher the possibility of an injury, but he is not a delicate violin. The man is 28 years old and built like a war machine.

Every game follows the same routine. The Heat have a lead at the end of the third quarter. Wade sits in the fourth quarter. Spolestra has Wade sit and sit until eventually the other team ties or takes the lead. Wade is then put in the game with five minutes rest, but all the momentum on the other team’s side. But five minute’s rest with time outs, the break between quarters, and stoppage for free throws is acutually closer to fifteen or twenty minutes. Anyone who has participated in a sport realizes one loses their rhythm with too long a break. Wade is expected to perform miracles but not in the correct state to do so.

Last week the Heat were playing the Lakers where I was witness to the above routine. The Heat had a big lead and Spolestra waited until we were only up by two points to put Wade back in. The score went back and forth and the game was tied with 3.6 seconds left. The Heat had the ball. Everyone knew Wade would take the last shot. The fans knew, the television commentators knew, the Lakers brilliant coaching staff certainly knew.  So the Lakers triple teamed Wade and he was forced to take an impossible shot that missed. But sitting on the bench was Michael Beasley a talented offensive player who was capable of making the last shot or at the very least serving as a decoy. And I was in my living room speaking like a sailor at sea who left his compass at the brothel.

What is ultimately going to happen are the Heat will have a disappointing end to the season and Spolestra will be canned during the summer. But why not do it now and make Wade the coach? If nothing else it will add some intrigue to a mediocre season. He’ll put himself in when he’s rested and take himself out when he’s weary. Have Spolestra go back to running practice and scouting the other team and leave him far away from the arena when it’s game time.

2 thoughts on “Coach Spo Gots To Go

  1. Excellent posting. Must admit I’ve only just found your blog after reading through a Michael Wallace Q&A session…..though I’d managed to find all the “Heat” fans online.
    Anyway, totally agree with you on Spoelstra. There’s just too much rigidity and I think it has become pig-headedness now…..he’s right – everyone else is wrong.
    He has cruelly mismanaged the development of Michael Beasley to the point where the kid nearly became the laughing stock of the NBA…it’s shameful.
    One thing that I have failed to comprehend over the past two seasons is….what is the goal in all of this? What is Spoelstra ultimately trying to achieve? What’s his brief?

    It certainly is NOT the development of young talent that is for sure certain.

    In case you are wondering I am one of only (I think) two Heat fans based in Scotland…haven’t managed to track the other guy down yet.


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