What is competitiveness? What are her motives, and how is she expressed? Competitiveness is best photographed if you happen to be over two feet tall, sweating and panting, and built like a neoclassical marble statue. Eric Spolstra does not exactly meet the definition – a coach of Asian-American descent, with a meticulous hairstyle, hands clasped in force, and a distinctly average appearance. Rachel Nichols does not have to stand on a stool for the interview with him at the start of the fourth quarter (although Safo rises to a height of 188 cm, let’s not let the facts confuse us).
She asks a question, and as befits a stressed coach who has other things on his mind in the middle of a game that might define his career, he completely ignores it in his response: “That’s what everyone wants. It’s a great competition… both teams, in the arena… that’s why we came.” On the face of it – an empty answer that is easy to skip. Especially since the game takes place in parallel. But something in Sepo’s concentrated gaze, which can weld metals, something in this quiet intensity, reveals a deeper truth about him.
Eric Spolstra’s path to writing a profile at Walla (and to a fifth final series as head coach) was not really paved for him from infancy. Perhaps just before we fall into the familiar template of the Cinderella story it is worth clarifying – when we talk about the players and coaches that make up this league, we are talking about the best people in the world in their profession. As such, everyone got there contrary to expectations, and everyone can sew one narrative or another that compares them to a particular heroic aspect – and rightly so! If so, what makes Sefo different, if at all?
Maybe it’s the fact that he did everything according to the book, without rounding corners, without too much protection or even luck. Perhaps what is unusual about Eric Spolstra’s story is that his story is not that unusual – in that sense Spolstra is a microcosm of the hit: “Look how much you can only achieve through hard work!” In a world where circumstances are everything – talent, data, luck, and opportunity – a person comes to the office every morning, lowers his head, and continues from where he left off the day before. No shrewd tricks, no coincidences, no catch. And it worked. who would believe. Work it works.
In 1995, after two seasons in the German second division, during which he served as an assistant coach-player, Spolstra was offered to join the Heat team as a video editor. In fact, Sepo was in the organization before Pat Riley, who came not long after him. Under the auspices of work ethic, zero distractions, and a quiet determination that would continue to radiate even years later, in interviews with Rachel Nichols, Eric advanced up the job ladder until one day he saw that no one was above him. In 2008, when Riley decided to stop coaching the team he promoted Spolstra. Sepo’s 12 seasons as head coach make him the oldest coach in the NBA after Greg Popovich. While the average coach has a shelf life of 3% milk, Spolstra has become an integral part of the organization.
Sagi Rafael and Oren Levy are writing a book summarizing the 2019/20 season in the NBA. Come join the celebration
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