Thursday, February 23, 2012
Erik Spoelstra hopes play trumps race
By Brian Windhorst
MIAMI -- Erik Spoelstra, the first Filipino-American to become a head coach in American pro sports, hopes that Jeremy Lin, the first Asian-American star in the NBA, eventually will be known for his basketball more than his heritage.
"I don't know him but I would guess he has a similar perspective as me about it," said Spoelstra, whose Miami Heat are hosting Lin's New York Knicks on Thursday night.
"It is terrific to be involved with changing people's perceptions, and the world is changing. But ultimately and hopefully years from now, the story will be about the basketball story and it won't be about ethnicity," Spoelstra said.
Lin is Asian-American and played at Harvard. His parents emigrated from Taiwan and he has grandparents in China.
Spoelstra's family in the Philippines has caught the same Lin fever that has swept Asia in the last month. Because of his background, Spoelstra has a different perspective on Lin's sudden emergence in the pros. But he said he would prefer fans to judge Lin like the fictional Roy Hobbs character in "The Natural" -- a hard worker who came out of nowhere -- rather than a player of Asian descent performing well.
"It is really is about a fortitude and faith and resiliency of somebody that would keep on banging on the door when it's shut repeatedly," Spoelstra said.
Brian Windhorst covers the Miami Heat for ESPN.com.