Like him or hate him, Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is one of the better young head coaches in the NBA.
Having said that though, he has a lot to learn before he can elevate himself as one of the elite coaches in the game.
Spoelstra can do that by studying the likes of Mr. Nasty, Gregg Popovich. The San Antonio Spurs head man isn’t just one of the best coaches in the NBA but one of the best coaches in all of professional sports.
Spoelstra may get the opportunity as the Heat and Spurs could collide in the NBA Finals.
If that’s the case, here’s five things that Spoelstra could learn from Mr. Nasty.
1. Become a Better Tactician
Popovich is the ultimate tactician and Spoelstra has a long way to go in order to reach that level.
The Spurs leader runs both a detailed-oriented offense and defense where attention to detail is a must. Popovich often has the exact tactical answer for any potential situation that arises throughout the course of a game.
He draws things up and his players execute almost flawlessly. Coming out of time-outs, there is no better play-caller in the NBA.
Spoelstra on the other hand has had problems diagramming plays late in games and it shows up during pressure situations.
2. Adjust, Adjust, Adjust
When things don’t go well for Popovich, he adjusts to game situations.
Spoelstra on the other hand often sticks with what has worked in the past.
The NBA is a game of adjustments and no coach in the league is better at making adjustments on the fly than Popovich is.
3. Command Respect
Is it me or does it often seem that Spoelstra doesn’t have the ultimate respect from his team? And that has nothing to do with the Dwyane Wade incident during Game 3 of the Indiana Pacers series.
There’s no doubting who the boss of the Spurs team is, because when Popovich talks, his players listen.
I just don’t feel that’s in Spoelstra’s personality and it’s something he needs to develop.
That’s hard to do with LeBron James and Wade on your team, as the NBA is a superstar driven league. The coach will always be dismissed before the player, but Spoelstra needs more of a commanding influence about him.
4. Challenge Your Players
No coach currently in the NBA is as good at challenging his players as Popovich.
His team never settles for mediocrity and he’s always looking for them to be better. He knows when to challenge his team’s toughness and also knows when he needs to inspire them to do better.
That was evident in Game 1 against the Thunder when Popovich asked his team for some nasty.
You won’t hear Popovich tell his team to keep fighting or keep trying, but you will hear things like “I want some nasty.”
He knows exactly what buttons to push and exactly when to push them.
5. Defense Wins Championships
Even though Spoelstra has the likes of James, Wade and Bosh to rely on offensively, the Heat will only go as far in the postseason as there defense takes them.
Even though the Spurs have been one of the best teams in the NBA offensively during the entire season, they still win with defense.
Give Popovich the choice of a volume scorer or a lockdown defender, and he will choose a Bruce Bowen or Kawhi Leonard type every time.
His team puts on a clinic of how to play unselfish basketball and it’s a beauty to watch, but Popovich also knows that you win in the postseason by being able to get consistent stops at the defensive end of the floor.