Miami Heat: If Erik Spoelstra Is Fired, Could These 10 Coaches Come and Win?
Last offseason, the Miami Heat instantly became the most hated team in the NBA. Not only did they retain fan favorite Dwyane Wade, but they also managed to sign star forwards Chris Bosh and LeBron James.
Instantly, some thought that the Heat were a lock for the NBA Finals with these three in the starting lineup. Yet, others were skeptical. How could three huge egos learn how to play together on the same team?
As of now, the skeptics have been proven right. The Miami Heat have played well, but the group known as the "Big Three" has had issues playing together and most notably, finishing games. The team is currently on a five-game losing streak and has another tough opponent tonight in the red-hot Los Angeles Lakers. Given the team's performance as of late, fans have cried out for head coach Erik Spoelstra (pictured at left) to be fired.
Were that to happen, here are 10 coaches who could replace him and hopefully win!
No. 10: Rudy Tomjanovich
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The odds of Rudy Tomjanovich being hired to coach the Miami Heat are fairly slim. He last coached in 2005, when he resigned 41 games into his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers because of "health concerns." He remains with the team as a consultant, but NBA fans would be thrilled to see him get back in the coaching game.
Tomjanovich is best known for his years as coach of the Houston Rockets, with whom he won two NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. However, those teams didn't have a bunch of big names save for Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, so hiring Tomjanovich would cause some concerns.
Still, the man has a lot of experience both as a player and a coach, and his easy-going approach just might work with Miami's Big Three. Throw in a top point guard, and Rudy T can do wonders.
No. 9: Mike Woodson
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Mike Woodson has spent most of his life in basketball. He was a star player under Bob Knight at Indiana, and then had a fairly successful career in the NBA that lasted 11 seasons. Most recently, he was head coach of the Atlanta Hawks.
In his six years in Atlanta, Woodson turned the Hawks from a perennial lottery team to a perennial playoff contender. Over his last two seasons (2008 and 2009), the Hawks reached the Eastern Conference semifinals, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic. After last season, Woodson's contract was not renewed.
Woodson could be a good fit in Miami because of his run-and-gun style. His teams in Atlanta always seemed to be missing that one piece to the puzzle. With the Big Three already in Miami, perhaps Woodson will finally be able to get past the conference semifinals.
No. 8: Mike Fratello
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In a career that has included coaching stops in Cleveland, Atlanta and Memphis, Mike Fratello has not once been to the NBA Finals. Yet, he remains one of the most respected basketball minds of all-time.
Fratello's coaching experience in the playoffs has been cut short by opposing players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he knows how to take a team to the postseason.
With three of the best players in the Eastern Conference already on his team, Fratello could easily use his coaching style and experience to take the Miami Heat far into the playoffs.
No. 7: Lawrence Frank
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Lawrence Frank began his coaching career with the New Jersey Nets in 2004 after Byron Scott was fired. Being Scott's assistant, he took over for the rest of the season. His tenure with the Nets ended up lasting six more seasons, before he was fired in 2009 after an 0-16 start.
Currently, Frank is an assistant with the Boston Celtics. There is no denying that he is itching to get back into the head coaching game, and Miami could be the perfect spot for him. His pick-and-roll style, with patience, could be a good fit for the Big Three and could allow Miami to reach its full potential.
No. 6: Don Nelson
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Considering how he has the most wins in NBA coaching history with 1,335, it is astonishing that Don Nelson has never coached a team to the NBA Finals. With his run-and-gun point forward-focused coaching style, Miami would be a good fit for him.
The fact is that Bosh, James and Wade are all shooters. They can play decent defense, but offense is their true forte. That being said, they would flourish in Nelson's system.
Nelson's coaching style is simple: Shoot the rock and play lockdown D. If he could employ that style effectively in Miami, the Heat would make multiple trips to the Finals.
No. 5: Mike Dunleavy
Despite his overwhelming hit-or-miss risk as a coach, Mike Dunleavy could be a good match for Miami. He has many years of experience, including stops in Los Angeles (with both the Lakers and Clippers), Milwaukee and Portland.
He has been to the NBA Finals once and the conference finals twice, and would have had a second trip to the Finals were it not for a miraculous comeback thanks to the law offices of Shaq & Kobe Inc.
The key to Dunleavy's coaching success is consistent performance, and Miami certainly is capable of that. If Dunleavy could find a way to improve communication on the floor, he will go down in history as the man who brought a title to Miami.
No. 4: Jeff Van Gundy
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Jeff Van Gundy would be an interesting choice for the Miami Heat. He has what it takes to lead a team to the playoffs, and even led the eighth-seeded New York Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1999. That team ultimately lost to the San Antonio Spurs, but it is still an impressive feat nonetheless.
On top of that, Van Gundy could be a good fit in Miami because he knows how to coach stars with big egos. I mean, come on. He coached the Knicks when Latrell Sprewell was on the team!
He may not be the top choice for the job, but there is no doubt in my mind that Van Gundy could do a fine job in Miami. Plus, it'd make for an interesting story when the Heat play the Orlando Magic, coached by his brother, Stan.
No. 3: Larry Brown
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Now, despite their troubles this season, the Miami Heat have generally played good defense. Larry Brown is a defensive coach, so why bring him along at all?
The answer is simple.
Brown is indeed a defensive guru, but he also specializes in the most important part of the game: Sharing the ball. Were he to come to Miami, Brown would use his conservative approach and make the Big Three spread the ball evenly around the court. They might not put up a lot of points, but they would definitely be one of the most well-communicating teams in the NBA.
If all egos are kept in check, Larry Brown would close out the twilight of his coaching career with some very successful years in South Beach.
No. 2: Mike Brown
Mike Brown only has five years of head coaching experience. Yet, those five years are just why he should be in Miami.
The reason? Well, Brown was LeBron James' coach in Cleveland when the Cavaliers were a force in the Eastern Conference.
In each of his five years in Cleveland, Brown's Cavaliers always made it to at least the conference semifinals. He needs to go to Miami because he knows LeBron James well and how to best use him. Were he to follow his former star player and "take his talents to South Beach," the Miami Heat would be a consistent and dangerous force in the NBA.
No. 1: Pat Riley
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Love him or hate him, Pat Riley is easily one of the best coaches in NBA history. In a 24-year coaching career, he has only missed the playoffs three times and has won five NBA championships, including one with the Miami Heat.
Currently, Riley serves the Heat as team president. He assumed that role upon his first resignation as Heat coach in 2003 before taking over again in 2005. He resigned again after the 2007-2008 season, and the Erik Spoelstra era began.
That being said, why would Riley come back?
Well, the Miami Heat team may have a lot of egos on the court, but Riley's ego is the biggest of them all. If he were to take back his vote of confidence and give Spoelstra the boot, there is no doubt in my mind that he would take over on at least an interim basis.
He loves the team and he loves winning, so it's perfectly reasonable to think that Riley would get back in the coaching game if it meant winning another title for Miami.