Erik Spoelstra nearly chose Grateful Dead tickets over chance to join Heat


Erik Spoelstra, as the story goes, willed himself up the Miami Heat’s organization chart. He started as a video coordinator, became a scout, assistant coach and then head coach.

He worked so hard. He was so determined.

Nobody was going to stop his climb.

Except himself.

Multiple times, Spoelstra nearly derailed his career.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

Beneath Spoelstra’s bold speeches is a fear of failure that was not always easy to conquer and channel. He accepted the job as head coach at Sherwood (Ore.) High but backed out a week later so he could return to Germany. He only applied for the Heat’s video coordinator position in 1995 as part of a bet with his German teammates. When a club official called with a date for an interview, Spoelstra was inclined to pass because he had tickets to a Grateful Dead concert. Even after landing the gig, he was ready to turn it down until his sister called and asked if he’d lost his mind.

When the Heat promoted him to advance scout in 1999, he balked, partly because he didn’t think his penmanship was as neat as his predecessor’s. When Riley made him an assistant coach two years later, he resisted again, wondering how he could reach his boss’s exacting standards. “I was comfortable and change scared me,” Spoelstra says. “I’d get this pit in my stomach, that fear of being a disastrous failure.” He compensated with work, starting at 4:45 a.m., compiling reports on every team in the league when other staffs were splitting the load.

That’s part of a phenomenal feature on Spoelstra you should read in its entirety.

Spoelstra is a good coach. We’ll see just how good this year without LeBron James to lean on.

But there’s no question – whether driven by insecurities or anything else – he’s putting in the work to make the Heat as good as they can be.