How Erik Spoelstra Became The Coach Of The Most Powerful Team In Sports Before He Turned 40

Erik Spoelstra

At age 42, Erik Spoelstra is just three wins away from winning his second NBA championship as a head coach.

But how Coach Spo came to lead the powerful Miami Heat is a fascinating tale of determination, luck, and having the right father.

In a profession dominated by former athletes and recycled coaches, Spoelstra defied convention and became an NBA head coach the old fashioned way. That is, he started young, he took advantage of connections, worked hard, and rose up the ranks, one promotion at a time.

Spoelstra was a solid high school point guard from Portland. He even played in Sonny Vacarro's famed camp with players like Alonzo Mourning, Shawn Kemp, and Bobby Hurley

Spoelstra played the University of Portland and was on the court during the WCC tournament against Loyola-Marymount when Hank Gathers died

Spoelstra's first coaching job came when he played professionally in Germany for two seasons. While there, he coached the club's youth team composed of 12-year-olds.

In 1995, Spoelstra was given a temporary job with the Miami Heat to help out with the NBA draft. He was just 25 years old.

After the draft, Spoelstra was asked to stay on and help with video editing. His ability to analyse film is now considered one of his strengths as a coach.

After just two years and many late hours working with video, Spoelstra was named an assistant coach. Two years later he was promoted to advance scout.

Spoelstra impressed the right people early on. Former Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy described Spoelstra as one of the only people he has ever met that Van Gundy knew was destined to be a head coach.

Spoelstra gained experience by serving as the head coach for the Heat's summer league team for three seasons

While fans may not have known Spoelstra, he was building a strong reputation among NBA circles for his work with players, his game plans, and his attention to details

As an assistant coach, Dwyane Wade credited Spoelstra for helping fine-tune his jump shot

Heat president Pat Riley prefers to promote from within. So when Riley stepped down as coach and needed a replacement, Spoelstra was a logical choice.

Spoelstra is not a typical head coach. In addition to having never played in the NBA, Spoelstra is part-Filipino and is the first Asian-American head coach among the four major North American sports leagues.

And when he was first hired by the Heat, he was just 37, the NBA's youngest coach. That came just 12 years after first being hired as a film editor.

Early on in the Heat's first season with the Big 3, Spoelstra appeared to be losing his grip on the job when LeBron James famously bumped him during a game

But he earned a lot of respect in the way he handled that situation and now Spoelstra appears to be here to stay

But he's still not the star of the finals...

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