In an interview on the Dan Le Batard Show on 790 the Ticket, Erik Spoelstra was asked whether his players like him and whether it matters. Spoelstra's response:
Who knows? They probably don’t like me most of the time. I don’t think any player likes their coach, so, no, that does not matter. I think we are all starting to trust each other, that is the most important thing, and it is a symbiotic thing. I have told that to my players. Yes, I have got to work my butt off and perform for them and earn their trust. Regardless of my experience or age you have to do that as a coach. You have to prove yourself every single day but don’t think for a second that they don’t have to do it for us as well, and that should be a symbiotic relationship.
Spoelstra is extremely selective and precise with his words, especially when he's speaking about abstractions such as trust, respect or personal affinity. For Spoelstra, these things are conditional. Trust is something that has to be earned through performance.
That might be one reason Spoelstra has been cautious with Mike Miller. It's not that Miller isn't trustworthy in a conventional sense, but he has yet to perform on the court. Spoelstra clearly isn't penalizing Miller for something that's purely a function of circumstance like a thumb injury, but it will be much easier for Spoelstra to hand more meaningful minutes to Miller once they establish a mutual level of trust based on performance. What's tricky about that symbiosis Spoelstra speaks of is that, in order to achieve that trust with his coach, Miller needs opportunities.
Spoelstra was also asked why the Heat looked awful on Tuesday night in after-timeout ("ATOs") situations:
We will be better with that. We will be. I think it was an important game for us to go through. Having some of these injuries actually is allowing us to play some different lineups that we had been planning on playing in short bursts, it just forced my hand earlier on and we are having to learn what is effective and what is not and one of the things that we have learned right now is Chris has been a crutch, a bailout for us. He has been arguably our most important player right now and when he was taken out of our lineup with the injury it really affected our rhythm offensively because we have always been able to play our offense through him when we need to and it facilitates ball movement and getting other people involved and because of his skillset we can do it in different ways. We can play through him in the post, we have our whole offense running through the high post through him, and we can of course run all the pick-and-rolls with him and throw it back. You take that element out we are having to explore new things and quite frankly there are a lot of lineups and combinations that we had the other night that have never been on the floor together but I think it is good for us and we are going to need that in the next 40 games and as we get into the playoffs.
On Thursday at practice, I asked Spoelstra who the best coach in the business was at late-game, after-timeout situations. "I have great respect for Doc Rivers in Boston," Spoelstra said. "They always seem to come out with something. You don't know which guy they're going to, and they execute well."
It's been more than five years since 82games.com devised its "after timeout" ratings, but it would be fun to see a current set of data. Doc Rivers performed well in that study, even though the 2005-06 Celtics weren't very good. My money would be on Gregg Popovich to top an updated list, though that's based solely on anecdotal impressions.
(Hat Tip: Sports Radio Interviews)