Erik Spoelstra, Heat Were Panicked After James’ Announcement


Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra speaks during press conference before game five of the 2014 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

So you coach one of the premier teams in the NBA, having notched four straight trips to the Finals and two championships. You’re sitting around the office with your boss when, all of a sudden, you get a phone call from your best player that he’s decided to move on to another team. What would your reaction be?

Probably very similar to the one had by Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, team president Pat Riley and the rest of the Heat’s front office. Spoelstra was in Las Vegas to meet his coaching staff and discuss personnel issues but had a chance to discuss the past few days – and LeBron James’ decision – with Shandel Richardson of the Sun-Sentinel. On the immediate reaction, Spo said this:

"“Probably, we were all in Pat’s office about five minutes just to collect ourselves and then from there it was madness. The board was right there. So we said we better get to work and we didn’t leave until after 1 in the morning.”"

The “board” refers to the team’s list of potential free agents, assigned a value to fit team needs or based on possible contract demands. At the top of the list and the first call the team received was the recently re-signed Chris Bosh.

"“We were talking to agents, trying to talk our guys, texting our guys and no one was getting back to us. There were two or three hours of a lot of uneasiness. We had no idea. From that point on, it just changed. It’s still the Miami Heat, still a great, proven organization, great opportunities and we started to get some calls back and the first one was CB. That one was obviously very important.”"

Spoelstra has not yet spoken to James, saying “there will be time for that” later. But he did say of his former player and his departure to Cleveland, “We don’t have any regrets. He shouldn’t have any regrets. It was a historic four-year run.”

The team was able to bounce back quickly, bringing back Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen from last year’s team, along with new additions Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng, with whom Riley and Spolestra met prior to James’ announcement.

Spoelstra has made the playoffs every season he’s coached and his four straight trips to the Finals is an impressive accomplishment. But critics will focus on how much simpler his job was having a singular talent like James on the roster. Others, such as CBS Sports’ Matt Moore, think Spoelstra’s job might be easier now, without “the expectations that come with that kind of team,” meaning a super squad built around James.

The truth probably is somewhere in between. But as evidenced by the remarkable work the front office was able to do over the past week, it’s clear the Heat is looking to move on while remaining a contender in the Eastern Conference.