There have been a lot of words said and written about LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but one person who has been surprisingly quiet so far is his now-former head coach with the Miami Heat, Erik Spoelstra.
That's no longer the case, as Spoelstra addressed the media following Miami's NBA Summer League game on Tuesday. He said, via Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel, that there shouldn't be any regrets or ill will from either side.
"He seemed at peace with the decision," said Spoelstra. "We don't have any regrets. He shouldn't have any regrets. It was a historic four-year run."
That's a rational argument for Spoelstra to make, and it certainly differs from the opinion held by the people who defaced the mural of Miami's 2012-13 championship team after LeBron's decision became public knowledge.
As calm as Spoelstra's comments appear now, he also said that wasn't the case in the hours after LeBron decided to take his talents back to Cleveland:
Probably, we were all in Pat's office about five minutes just to collect ourselves and then from there it was madness. The board was right there. So we said we better get to work and we didn't leave until after 1 in the morning. ...
... We were talking to agents, trying to talk our guys, texting our guys and no one was getting back to us. There were two or three hours of a lot of uneasiness. We had no idea. From that point on, it just changed. It's still the Miami Heat, still a great, proven organization, great opportunities and we started to get some calls back and the first one was CB (Chris Bosh). That one was obviously very important.
Spoelstra's candid comments in that moment are very telling. Not only does it show LeBron's ability to keep his decision quiet from everyone outside of his innermost circle, but it's also a rare glimpse behind the curtain of how professional sports teams work.
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com weighed in on Spoelstra's comments:
But it's interesting to hear the coach admit he (sic) team was panicking; it's a nice change of pace from the constant spin. On one level, Spoelstra's job becomes a lot easier. He loses LeBron James, but he also loses the expectations that come with that kind of team. If the Heat secure a top-four seed and make the second round, it's a good season. If they make the playoffs, it's "mission accomplished." He lost the best player on the planet. As long as they don't crash and burn, they have something to celebrate.
It's easy to assume that teams always have a contingency plan in place if they don't sign a free agent, but you get the feeling from Spoelstra that the Heat had every reason to believe LeBron was coming back.
The Heat head coach is also right about the franchise having a great track record of success. They aren't going to be as good as they have been, but they still have Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng in the Eastern Conference.
That's a good nucleus to work with, even though King James won't be around to hold it all together. It will be on Spoelstra to take the cards he's dealt and keep Miami competitive well into the postseason.