In Stan Van Gundy’s opinion, Erik Spoelstra garners so much criticism, at least partially, because he rarely defends himself from it. Perhaps that’s why Van Gundy goes ahead and basically does that for him in this interview. Or perhaps he comes to the defense of coaches everywhere that have not won a championship because he’s a member of that group.
Either way, his points about the credit that championship coaches get hold more water by the minute it seems. Scott Brooks’ Oklahoma City Thunder took out Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs and Spoelstra’s Heat avoided elimination on the road last night.
Stan Van Gundy joined 790 The Ticket in Miami with The Dan LeBetard Show to discuss Spoelstra being criticized as a coach, a columnist commenting that the Heat need to run more plays, why Spoelstra takes so much Heat, if Spoelstra will still take heat even if Miami wins a title and Scott Brooks coaching against Gregg Popovich.
What are your thoughts on Chris Broussard writing that Erik Spoelstra is in over his head?:
“Well, there’s a number of thoughts there. My first thought is that Chris Broussard has no knowledge of coaching and wouldn’t know it if he saw it. I’d like to get some specifics from Chris on what he thinks coaching is … and what’s not happening. My second thought is this, when he says they need somebody of the ilk of Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Gregg Popovich, two thoughts on that, there aren’t many guys of that ilk period … and second of all if that’s the ilk they need, maybe they’re not that damn good anyway. And my third thing is in the game today there aren’t many guys as good as Erik Spoelstra. And I would cite a couple things rather than just an opinion. … That is the best defensive team that I have ever seen that doesn’t have size. I’ve never seen an elite defensive team in the NBA, until this Miami team, that doesn’t have size. To me, there has to be a helluva lot of coaching in there.”
On Broussard’s comment that maybe the Heat should run a play like Boston does:
“Yeah, maybe like the play they ran when Paul Pierce hit the big 3 at the end of the game. There was nothing going on there. It was a step-back, got some space and made a 3. The Heat are doing every bit as much offensively in terms of running plays. Here’s the difference: Doc Rivers won a championship a few years ago, so everyone just gives him the credit of being a great coach — which Doc deserves, he’s great. Eric hasn’t won, so people go into the series assuming there’s a great coaching advantage, which there is not. And because they have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, it’s on Erik.”
Why do you think Spoelstra is getting so beat up?:
“I would say there’s basically two reasons. Number one is that there’s an expectation level for the Heat to win and if they don’t, people are just going to make an assumption that it’s coaching. To me, what’s confusing about this one though, is that it’s pretty easy. They have one of the 10 or 12 best offensive players in the league in Chris Bosh, who hasn’t been able to play. … The second thing is, quite honestly, is Erik never does anything to promote himself or try to defend himself. He just coaches his team and takes the heat and goes on.”
Isn’t the other confusing thing that people that Scott Brooks was overmatched against Gregg Popovich?:
“Popovich is still the superior coach in everybody’s mind. That’s the thing. It doesn’t matter. Now, it’ll all change if Scott Brooks wins a championship. To me, that’s what it’s all about. Once you’ve won a championship, then you’re immune to any criticism. You cannot make a bad coaching move. Anything you do is fine. And it’s something else. Until you win a championship, then it’s the coach’s fault. So if Scott Brooks now wins a championship this year, which he very well could do obviously, then all of the sudden he’ll be immune from all that criticism. … Had the Spurs won, it would have been because of coaching and the Thunder were able to win despite of the coaching. … Gregg Popovich is a great basketball coach, in my mind the best one that’s been in the league certainly over the last decade … but Scott Brooks is a very good coach, too.”
Do you think it’s possible that the Heat could win a championship but if they were in a predicament again next year, it would just fall back on Spoelstra?:
“You may be right, because the stuff with the Heat is a little bit out of whack, to the point where they can have a guy like Chris Bosh out for the whole series and people don’t even factor that in. The stuff I read, if I just read the national media, I would think that the Celtics are this banged up team who are just thriving on their tremendous will and coaching and the Heat are at full strength and trying to win on their talent. That’s obviously not what’s going on, but that would certainly be the impression.”
Listen to Stan Van Gundy on 790 The Ticket in Miami here (Interview begins at 57:25)