Erik Spoelstra and Pete Carroll: Champions with a Connection

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Erik Spoelstra and Pete Carroll: Champions with a Connection
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI — The Seahawks don't belong solely to Seattle.

They belong to a region.

So that's the NFL team that Erik Spoelstra, a son of the Pacific Northwest, grew up following most closely while his father was an executive for the Portland Trail Blazers. And that's the NFL team that the Miami Heat coach visited this summer, during training camp, to expose himself to how Pete Carroll operates.

Spoelstra, a football junkie, sees similarities in strategy, preparation and ego management between the sports, and he's visited with Urban Meyer, Butch Jones and, most extensively, Chip Kelly, over the past couple of years to get their insights. Kelly, while at the University of Oregon, contributed to Spoelstra's switch to more of an open pace-and-space offensive philosophy, following the Heat's NBA Finals loss in 2011. 

This time, Spoelstra stayed with the Seahawks from seven in the morning through late at night.

Carroll was ready for him.

"They have a basketball hoop set up in their team meetings, every single one of their meetings," Spoelstra said. "I just went into one of their group team meetings, and all of a sudden, I was writing notes down, Coach called me up and I ended up having to play P-I-G in front of the whole group."

Did he win?

"Yeah," Spoelstra said. "We didn't go with a football toss. We played a shooting game."

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Carroll also gave Spoelstra a chance to speak to his players.

They've stayed in touch since. And Spoelstra, who has won the past two NBA championships, texted Carroll to offer his best wishes in the middle of last week.

"And I hesitated doing it, because during the playoffs I hadn't texted him, and I didn't want to jinx it," Spoelstra said. "Actually, I would have liked to have seen a more competitive game. I mean, you're sitting down for four hours, you'd like to see a more dramatic finish at the end."

Something close to what the Heat and San Antonio Spurs provided in last June's NBA Finals.

"But yeah, I texted with him today, and congratulate that group," Spoelstra said. "It was an incredible experience for me. I went up there just to learn, and try to take something from them, something that maybe I could learn for myself as a coach, from someone who I think is really a unique football coach. His personality, the way he approaches the game, his mind, he's creative, his energy that he brings, for somebody of his age."

Carroll is 62.

Spoelstra is 43.

"When I saw him out there, at my age, I was like, 'OK, if he can bring that, I can bring more, in what I'm doing,'" Spoelstra said. "But then to see the professionalism, the speed, the quickness, the power of what you saw from that team. What we saw last night, I saw that in training camp. So my hat's off to him. It's not easy to win a championship in any sport, just to endure an entire season, and to finally be able to raise that up."

Spoelstra said Carroll had an open invite to visit with the Heat.

"I have another football coach in town tonight," Spoelstra said.

Well, it couldn't be Carroll, not with the Seahawks' party still in progress. And while Spoelstra wouldn't reveal which one, when Kelly was mentioned, he gave it away with a grin.

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