Coach of the Year award continues to elude Heat's Erik Spoelstra

Shandel Richardson

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has always been on the outside looking in.

No matter his success, he is often an afterthought when the subject of the NBA's Coach of the Year surfaces. This year is no different. He has received minimal consideration despite leading the Heat to the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. They were high as the No. 2 seed before a midseason slip, caused mostly by injuries. Dan Devine of The Ringer recently provided his best candidates for the honor. Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse deservedly headed the list, followed by Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Memphis Grizzlies' Taylor Jenkins. Devine did offer Spoelstra some praise when he wrote, "Doc Rivers, Brad Stevens, Erik Spoelstra, even understanding how little we really know about what a coach’s job is, they always seem to deserve more recognition than they actually get."

So when will it come for Spoelstra?

When he led the Heat to two titles in four consecutive NBA Finals appearances from 2010-2014, skeptics said it was mainly because of talented teams that featured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Even former disgruntled Heat guard Dion Waiters took a shot at Spoelstra earlier this season, saying he only won because of star power. 

Two seasons after the Big Three era ended, Spoelstra took the Heat within one game of the Eastern Conference finals. Still, he finished just 10th in the Coach of the Year voting. After an 11-30 start, he placed second in 2016-17 after nearly leading a team comprised mostly of G League players to the playoffs.  

This season, Spoelstra, the second-longest tenured current coach behind San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, is likely to finish in similar standing even though he has taken a revamped team to another playoff appearance once play resumes after the coronavirus suspension.

Spoelstra has never clamored for recognition but perhaps one day the award isn't so elusive. 

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