What’s a young coach to do immediately after losing his first NBA Finals series and searching for answers? For Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, he was immediately visited by a coaching legend who knows a thing or two about winning rings.
At today’s final media interview of the season, Spoelstra revealed how Riley was there to show his support for the 40-year-old coach that joined the organization back in 1996, the same year that Riley left the New York Knicks to join the fledgling organization.
“Pat’s been terrific. Right after the game, I was walking mindlessly down the hall. You’re not expecting it at that point, and you’re not thinking about anything. The first person I saw when I opened up my office, it surprised me, he was in there. And the conversation that we had really is between him and I but it was terrific. He’s been there. There’s probably no one else I wanted to see in my office at that point.
“Yesterday (Monday) it was the same thing. I came in, we met informally for 2 or 3 hours, the first 20 minutes not a word was said.”
Asked afterwards what exactly happened during those first twenty silent minutes, Spoelstra simply smiled and repeated that they simply just sat there. After a moment, he explained further with a smile.
“If you get here and you feel this you can relate. There wasn’t a whole lot to be said initially.”
But once the words started, Riley not only gave him words of encouragement but some historical perspective as well.
“We covered so many different topics. One of the stories he brought up was the ’84 (Los Angeles Lakers) team that he could relate to. They went up 2-1 and it looked like they had an opportunity to really close out and be in control against the Celtics. The infamous fight broke out and the series changed. They ended up losing and they had to sit with that pain for an entire offseason.”
A recent Lakers team could also be looked upon as inspiration for the Heat. The 2007-08 team fell short 4-2 in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics in their first postseason pairing up Pau Gasol with Kobe Bryant. The Lakers then went on to capture the next two championships.
For the time being, Spoelstra is simply grateful for the presence of the former Lakers coach who has won 5 rings as a coach and one as a player. Riley also won his first NBA Executive of the Year award last month (an honor shared with Bulls executive Gar Forman).
“Again, I can’t express enough how valuable it is to have someone like that in our organization.”