- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009


“This is the first time since the brackets came out that I don't feel like I'm going to get sick, physically sick, thinking about everything that was ahead of us.” — Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma after his team won its sixth NCAA women's basketball title

A vote for Spoelstra

Mike Brown of the Cleveland Cavaliers is probably going to win the NBA coach of the year award, but here's one unofficial, noncounting vote for Miami's Erik Spoelstra, who has presided over the league's biggest turnaround.

With three games left, the Heat have 26 more wins than last year's 15-67 abomination that sealed Pat Riley's retirement. Riley stayed on as team president and hired his assistant, Spoelstra, who was well-known mainly to NBA insiders. Riley called him “a man that was born to coach.”

Spoelstra was born Nov. 1, 1970, which makes him the youngest coach in the NBA. He looks even younger than 38. And he is the league's first Filipino-American coach. But mainly, Spoelstra is a cerebral NBA lifer who immersed himself in the game and held a variety of jobs during his 14 years with Miami.

At 41-38 in the weak East, the Heat are in the playoffs. Dwyane Wade, having an MVP-worthy year, is fully healthy for the first time in three seasons. Wade has a less talented supporting cast than LeBron James in Cleveland.

Spoelstra might be one of those young, stats-crunching brainiacs, but he also pushes defense, offensive movement and a tough overall mindset. He withstood the Shawn Marion soap opera and numerous injuries (he has used 15 different lineups), and seems to have connected with his players and earned their respect. That's success at any age.

TWT Five: Biggest turnarounds in NBA history

1. 2007-08 Boston Celtics, 42 more wins — Three stars are better than one. Way better. Raise another banner.

2. 1997-98 San Antonio Spurs, 36 — For the second time in a decade, Spurs luck out with the No. 1 pick and draft a difference-maker. This time it's Tim Duncan.

3. 1989-90 San Antonio Spurs, 35 — Before Duncan, it's David Robinson.

4. 2004-05 Phoenix Suns, 33 — Mike D'Antoni coaches first full season, Steve Nash returns and 22-year-old Amare Stoudemire dominates.

5. 1979-80 Boston Celtics, 32 — Three words: Larry Joe Bird.

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