Miami Heat signed Erik Spoelstra to extension during offseason

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner

Imagine if NBA stars signed contract extensions the way NBA coaches do, as in, below the radar and with zero fanfare.

Right. The league wouldn’t hear of it. What, concede the July sports landscape to baseball?

But that’s how it apparently went in Miami, where coach Erik Spoelstra had his Heat contract extended without clamor or press release. The team confirmed Friday that Spoelstra – in his ninth season and already the NBA’s second-longest tenured coach behind San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich – would continue in his current position for the foreseeable future.

Issuing a statement before the Heat’s game at Boston, Spoelstra expressed gratitude to franchise owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley for the opportunity and their support.

“I would like to thank the Arisons and Pat for their continued confidence in me and my staff and are humbled in their trust in me as head coach,” Spoelstra said. “It has been an incredible 22 years being part of the Miami Heat family and we will look to continue our goal of winning NBA championships.”

Spoelstra, 46, benefitted from, but also tackled the challenge of, Miami’s Big Three era from 2010-2014 when all-NBA forwards LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined All-Star guard Dwyane Wade in south Florida. Balancing the strong games and personalities of those players, Spoelstra helped the Heat play in four consecutive NBA Finals and win championships in 2012 and 2013.

With James going back to Cleveland in 2014, Bosh being sidelined by blood-clot issues and Wade signing with Chicago this summer, the Heat and Spoelstra have faced adversity. Their loss to the Celtics Friday dropped them to 10-24, third-worst record in the Eastern Conference, and a skid of seven defeats in their past eight games.

Dealing with the egos of stars is one way for a coach to earn his salary. Navigating the Heat’s current tough times is another. Terms of Spoelstra’s contract extension were not released.

“I’m invigorated by it regardless of what the record is,” Spoelstra said of his job, in the hours before tipoff Friday. “We’re able to step back with perspective and look at the big picture and guys are getting better, the team is getting better. We’re forming an identity that we’re getting more consistent to.

“We haven’t been able to close out games and I think that’s probably been the most frustrating thing. But I think in terms of defensive principles, defending at a high rate, learning how to win and learning how to make winning plays, sometimes when you have veteran players a lot of that is understood. With a team like this, it has to be developed. That’s an invigorating process.”

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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