Why Erik Spoelstra Should Stop Coaching by the Numbers and Go with His Gut

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IJune 7, 2012

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 03:  (L-R) Dwyane Wade #3, Erik Spoelstra and Mario Chalmers #15 of the Miami Heat look on against the Boston Celtics  in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on June 3, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has been criticized for a lot as his team is on the brink of elimination, down 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.

Whether it’s the constant shuffling of the rotations, not playing Chris Bosh late in the game, his team’s poor execution in the fourth quarter or being completely out-coached by Doc Rivers, Spoelstra is shouldering a ton of the blame for the Miami's struggles.

It’s natural for a young coach to do things by the book or play the numbers in order to perfect his craft, but with the Heat facing elimination, now is the time for Spoelstra to forget all of that and go with his gut.

Sure Spoelstra isn’t in the class of Rivers as a coach, but he’s not doing himself any favors with his lineup decisions.

Joel Anthony went from starting Game 4 to not playing in Game 5, and James Jones played more than eight minutes in the Heat’s most important fourth quarter of the year.

Then there was the handling of Bosh, who was productive in 10 first-half minutes, but played just four the rest of the night.

Spoelstra has left himself open to a ton of second-guessing and hasn’t explained himself much better, especially when it came to the Bosh situation. As he explains to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson:

I didn’t think it would necessarily be fair to him to throw him in with three minutes to go.

Pressed Thursday about why that was even an issue, Spoelstra said, “Those are decisions you have to make as a coach, and after the fact, those can always be second-guessed. But we’re treading in new waters, and he had been out quite a while.”


Now the time has come where there’s nothing left to lose for Spoelstra. It’s time to do what he feels is right.

Forget trying to figure out the right rotations. He needs to play the best five that he feels gives the Heat the best chance to win.

Anthony did the best job of anyone guarding Garnett. While KG’s field-goal percentage may be high when Anthony is on the floor, if Spo’s gut is telling him Anthony is the guy, then playing Anthony is the right move.

He has the option of going bigger and starting Bosh and Udonis Haslem together, but if his gut tells him to go small, then do it. Just make sure to do it all the way.

I feel Spoelstra second-guesses himself after he makes decisions and often keeps going back and forth hoping he hits the jackpot.

The time for that is over. Make a decision and stick with it.

If his gut is telling him LeBron should have the ball in his hands every play in the fourth quarter, then LeBron must be getting the ball. If he doesn’t think LeBron should take the last shot, then it better be in the hands of Dwayne Wade.

Spoelstra is in charge of this team. It’s time he start acting like it instead of a caretaker of superstars.

Sometimes over-analyzing everything can lead to a coach out-thinking himself.

With Miami’s season in jeopardy Thursday night, the easiest thing for Spoelstra to do is keep it simple. Forget about the numbers and the rotations and ride your superstars.

By playing his gut, Spoelstra and the Heat just may see a Game 7. The other way just isn’t working.