To the bevy of coaches the Portland Trail Blazers have interest in, Erik Spoelstra’s name can be added to the list.
Spoelstra recently signed a four-year extension with the Miami Heat until 2025, but things change rather fast in sports.
The two-time championship head coach has deep ties to the state of Oregon. He spent part of his childhood being raised in Portland after a stint in Buffalo, New York.
When his family settled in Portland, Spoelstra would eventually go to become a standout at Jesuit in Beaverton and then go on to play collegiately at the University of Portland. He’s one of the few head coaching possibilities with ties to the city and state.
By now many people know Spoelstra’s story. He started in Miami’s video coordinating room in 1995 and worked his way up to become Pat Riley’s successor in 2008. Since then, Spoelstra has become the greatest coach in Heat history, having coached their golden era with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh, to now being the longest-tenured NBA coach behind Gregg Popovich.
The guy from Portland turned out pretty well.
Ron Culp, a longtime athletic trainer across the league including with the Blazers, has seen a young Spoelstra blossom.
“He is a mini-Pat Riley,” Culp said. “No detail goes un-diagnosed. There is nothing about his efforts and drive that he leaves to chance. It’s just the way Eric is. If there’s a coach in the area who does seething unique, he seeks him out. Whether it’s basketball or another sport. He’s always trying to get better.”
His rise from that room to the head chair has given hope to a generation of men and women in the video coordinating room. Spoelstra showed there’s more than one way to becoming a head coach, it just comes down to opportunity.
“His success has been no surprise to me because of his extraordinary love for the game,” said Larry Steele, Spoelstra’s college coach. “Pat Riley must have seen in him what I would have seen in him -- an elite dedication to the game, on top of his personality and love for the game.
“I think people, whatever profession they’re in, there’s people who come along that you just know they have what it takes. I have to give credit to Pat Riley -- who I’ve never talked with, other than playing against him -- and people in charge of making decisions, for promoting him and seeing what he has, who he is and what he is.”
Spoelstra has created a culture in Miami -- something every sports team dreams of. The team is a destination location and winning is now expected there because of the precedent created by their head coach.
It’s hard to envision him leaving Miami unless there’s a wild shakeup. If he were to depart from South Beach, a homecoming to Portland would seem to make sense.
Terry Stotts departed the team as one of their best coaches in franchise history. But with him gone and knowing what Spoelstra could bring to the team and city, he seems like an ideal candidate.