Speak up so we can hear you” – When head coach Pat Riley let a young Erik Spoelstra handle the film session👇👇

 

Speak up so we can hear you” – When head coach Pat Riley let a young Erik Spoelstra handle the film session

One of the most underrated qualities a leader can possess is the ability to adapt adeptly to unexpected situations they are unexpectedly thrust into.

Erik Spoelstra, then an assistant coach for the Miami Heat, found himself in precisely such a scenario during the 2005-06 season. When a video session was on the agenda, head coach Pat Riley suddenly turned to him and thrust him right into the spotlight.

“You go over every clip. Call out the players.‘You didn’t get back on defense.’ ‘You didn’t take the charge.’ There he was in front of the team for the first time,” Riley recounted in 2023, per Miami Herald.

Riley’s succession plan

Riley served as the Heat’s team president and head coach from 1995 to 2003, returning to the latter position in December 2005. However, as ‘The Godfather’ already approached his mid 60s, it was time to find a successor to continue the franchise’s success he had built so masterfully over the years. Fortunately, a suitable candidate was already within the organization.

Enter Spoelstra, who joined the Heat around the same time as Riles, starting humbly as a video coordinator. Interestingly, Erik’s Heat career nearly ended prematurely, but a contractual loophole prevented him from getting fired. From there, he steadily rose through the ranks, becoming the director of scouting and an assistant coach by the 2005-06 season.

As he recognized Spoelstra’s potential, Riley put the young coach through a test, which he later labeled “the first step of coaching.” This assessment would prove key to identifying the now 53-year-old as his successor.

On experiment day, Erik brought the self-produced Heat’s recent game video as usual. But this time, the young assistant coach himself would review it with players like Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, and Shaquille O’Neal.

Unsurprisingly, the initial start of the session was a bit shaky for the weary Spoelstra, prompting ‘The Godfather’ to urge, “Speak up so we can hear you!” This seemed to help, as his protégé soon found his stride, and the experiment ultimately proved successful after all.

“He was brilliant. The players all sat up straight and showed him respect, and he did not fumble,” Riles said.

Afterward, the cheering Heat team even swarmed to pat Spoelstra on the back, yet the assistant coach admitted he didn’t relish a repeat, as he told his boss.

“Sometimes you have to stand up in front of those guys,” responded Pat, who also remarked, “That’s when he became a part of the inner circle.”

Two years later, at age 37, Spoelstra became the Heat’s head coach, a choice that proved immensely successful. Since then, he has coached over 1200 league games (743 wins), leading the ‘Heatles’ to back-to-back rings in the early 2010s.

Now regarded as one of the top 15 coaches in NBA history, coach Spo has indeed come a long way from his unexpected start running a video session. In retrospect, it was a stroke of genius from ‘The Godfather.’

“You don’t ever come in my office and tell me to fire a coach” – When Pat Riley reportedly defended Erik Spoelstra from the Miami Heat players

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