Coach Spoelstra shows love for hoops, kids and Pinoys

By Reuben Terrado – Despite his status as a high-caliber National Basketball Association (NBA) coach, Miami Heat mentor Erik Spoelstra is still eager to teach young kids his knowledge of the game.

“Nothing’s better than working in a hot gym, playing basketball and working with the kids—boys and girls,” said Spoelstra after working with young players at the La Salle Greenhills Gym in San Juan.

Spoelstra can relate in a way to being young and enthusiastic. He is currently the youngest NBA coach at 39.

He is also the first coach in American professional sports who has Filipino lineage. His mother, Elisa Celino, is from Los Banos, Laguna.

Spoelstra’s enthusiasm with the Filipino kids was evident.

“I told them to start working on their fundamentals and work on basketball. Everybody did a great job of listening and trying to do what they learn,” Spoelstra said.

He has high hopes a Filipino player can do big internationally, including in the NBA.

“Why not? The game of basketball is getting more global and players are coming from all over. The Philippines is one of only a few countries in the world where basketball is the No. 1 sport. There is passion among the players to do better and I think someday, somebody will get through,” said Spoelstra.

Asked about developments at the Heat camp as to whether the team would tap superstar Lamar Odom, he said: “I don’t know. Hopefully.”

The Heat have asked Odom to return to the team. Odom played for the Heat in 2003-04 before getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal.

“I’m not allowed to comment much on free agency but obviously, Lamar played for us. Fans love him. Let’s see how it plays out,” said Spoelstra.

Spoelstra also commended his superstar Dwyane Wade.

“It all starts with Dwyane Wade. He is the best player in our team but is also one of the best teammates to be around with. He likes to get people involved,” he said.

The Heat won 43 of their 82 regular season games last year, but failed to get past the first round against the Atlanta Hawks.

But for the Heat to go far into the playoffs, Spoelstra said it’s still all about basics.

“Hopefully we can improve on our performance from last year. We’ll try to get better. But we still have to do the basic things of basketball which is all about teamwork,” said Spoelstra.

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