Erik Spoelstra should not be fired. Let’s clear that up right away. Though that fact has nothing to do with Pat Riley taking over the Miami Heat, the problems the Miami Heat are facing are not specific to the influence of Erik Spoelstra.
The Miami Heat have real basketball problems. Don’t let the consecutive lopsided victories against the Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers fool you. The Heat are struggling. The team does not have a true floor general in the form of a point guard that is able to divide up the touches on the floor between the superstars LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. The team also lacks a real low post threat, with respect to the fan favorite and ever-popular Zydrunas Ilgauskas. These are real basketball problems that not even elite superstars can overcome.
None of those basketball problems are Erik Spoelstra’s fault. In fact, they are the fault of Pat Riley. The general manager of the team has done a fairly poor job of building a complete basketball team. Riley is great at attracting superstars, but the supporting players are not as important. More importantly, they are injured right now. The injuries to Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller have devastated the team from a role playing standpoint.
Again, this is not Erik Spoelstra’s fault. It is, however, is problem.
As Loyal Homer states in his argument, Erik Spoelstra deserves respect, and he deserves time to become a great coach. He is long time friends with Pat Riley and has earned his respect. And, as Loyal Homer points out in his argument, Pat Riley’s last foray into coaching was not the championship season. Rather, it was a season when he coached a team that won just 15 games. Yikes.
As Optimist Prime points out his argument, however, Pat Riley is too proud to watch his team go down in flames.
Both arguments are correct to a point. Pat Riley is proud, and Erik Spoelstra is thrust into difficult circumstances with insoluble basketball problems. But, one point won me over. Optimist Prime may be right about Riley’s pride, but Pat Riley is too proud to become head coach right now. He will face the exact same problems that Erik Spoelstra faces now. Basketball won’t change, and Riley knows that. If Riley takes over as head coach, the point guard and low post center position will not be magically improved on the team. Loyal Homer rightly points out that, “It’s not realistic to think Riley could come down out of coaching retirement on his little white stallion and wave the magic wand and all of a sudden make the troubles of the Heat go away.”
It doesn’t matter if Wade or LeBron have faith in Spoelstra one minute, and no faith the next. Pat Riley has been around basketball too long to a) not recognize the real reason a team is struggling and b) not care enough about his legacy to risk it being tainted by a return to coaching that is doomed to immediate failure, regardless of what superstars on thon the team.
Pat Riley is not the best coach for this team because he knows that he doesn’t have the best team. He jettisoned Stan Van Gundy several years ago because he knew the team had potential to win a championship. He doesn’t know that with this team, despite the hype. Reality is different, so the front office is quiet and Pat Riley is enjoying the view from his box, content to watch his young coach struggle until more good players can be placed around the superstar nucleus.
When Riley gets more role players and the overall team improves, the he will mount the white stallion and ride in to rescue the team. Those conditions have not yet been met, so Riley is content to hang Spoelstra out to dry.