We have learned various things over the last week or so of the NBA Finals. Stuff like Manu Ginobili can still put it on you, Dwyane Wade has seen “Red Tails” once or twice, and LeBron James will have none of your week stuff at the rim.
Here’s another thing that keeps coming up: Jeff Van Gundy loves Erik Spoelstra. A lot. To the point where he keeps declaring Spoelstra is “going to Hall of Fame.” Wait, what?
JVG went deep into that idea on a media conference call before the NBA Finals and then declared it again on last night’s Game 3 broadcast.
Here’s some of what he said on the aforementioned call:
“Erik is still in the phase where he gets more blame for their losses than credit for their wins, but he’s going to the Hall of Fame. He’s that good. His even‑keel demeanor, his humility, I think helps him really get the most out of his best players and you know, it’s fun to watch his teams, fun to watch [Popovich's] teams. I just love the grace and humility both teams play with.”
“Erik to me has never gotten in his short time, the credit that he deserves, particularly those first two years [2008-09 and 2009-10] that he took over. He’s taken over in a pretty down period in Miami Heat basketball, and with [Udonis] Haslem and Wade, Wade obviously being his best player, but the cornerstone of Haslem, that they were able to win as much as they did the first two years showed his true greatness in coaching. And then how he’s done these last three years, now being in the Finals three consecutive years, and actually delivering more than ever could have been expected with James. To reach three consecutive Finals is an incredible feat.”
When it comes to NBA coaches, very few have made it to the hall. And the ones who are? Icons. Red Auerbach. Chuck Daly. Phil Jackson. Jack Ramsay. Pat Riley. Jerry Sloan. Lenny Wilkins. Don Nelson. Guys like that.
Here’s an interesting breakdown from SI’s Ben Golliver in a piece from last week:
Five seasons in, Spoelstra is simply out of his depth from a longevity standpoint. Everyone — even Van Gundy — can surely agree that this conversation is happening way too early. But his success to date definitely has him heading toward exclusive company.
His .660 winning percentage ranks sixth among coaches with at least five years of experience and his playoff winning percentage of .639 currently ranks third behind only Jackson and Paul Westhead. Should the Heat prevail over the Spurs, Spoelstra would become one of just 13 coaches to win at least two titles. What’s more, should the Heat win this year and next season, Spoelstra would become one of just six coaches to win at least three titles. Those six include five current Hall of Famers (Jackson, Auerbach, John Kundla, Riley and Daly) plus Popovich, who is surely destined for Springfield. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Big picture, Spoelstra’s youth arguably helps his Hall of Fame chances. It’s crazy to even type this, but he could legitimately coach for 25 more years. His 260 career regular-season wins currently place him tied for No. 69 all-time. Hypothetically speaking, if he were to go .500 over the next 25 years, coaching until he’s 67 (Jackson’s current age), he would be one of just three coaches (along with Don Nelson and Wilkens) to crack the 1,250 wins mark. The point here isn’t to predict that he will be able to stay employed and passionate about coaching for that long, but merely to point out that his ceiling is essentially limitless thanks to his immense success early in his career.
So, basically, if he stays in the game and is lucky enough to be coaching top level talent for a very long time, he’s on track. Winning x longevity = HOF.
Will Erik Spoelstra be in the Basketball Hall of Fame some day?
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