By Tim Reynolds
MIAMI | Gone are the days where Miami coach Erik Spoelstra would spend the final few pregame moments wolfing down hot dogs while pulling on his suit jacket and hurrying to the court.
It’s all different now, and more changes are coming.
Chicken fingers and coffee have been replaced by green juice and yoga, part of the reason why he’s probably more fit at 47 than when he took over the Heat at 37. Spoelstra is happier and healthier — and he’s bracing for an intense next few months, with the Heat chasing a playoff spot while he and his wife get ready to become first-time parents.
“Am I ready? I don’t know,” Spoelstra said. “We’re going to find out. Been reading my books.”
There are parenting books and playbooks, but nothing combines the two — though those around Spoelstra are sure he’ll find the balance between baby and basketball.
“The change will be great,” said Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy, the former Heat head coach and assistant coach who has remained close with Spoelstra from their time together in Miami. “I’m really, really, really, really happy for him. But certainly anybody who has raised kids, and I’ve had four of them, will know that you can throw all your theories out the window. My only advice would be to enjoy every day of it.”
That’s Spoelstra’s mantra now, and an even more intense devotion to his health is helping.
The Heat put as much of a premium on fitness as any team in the NBA, and Spoelstra holds himself as accountable as he does the players in that regard. It’s not uncommon to see him ducking out of the team hotels on road trips for a hot yoga class at a place he knows in Detroit, or finding a space in the back of a spinning class in Boston or New York.
The season is a grind, and everyone tends to wear down. Most everyone, that is. Spoelstra seems to be an exception.
In his 10 seasons as head coach, Spoelstra has led the Heat to wins 58 percent of the time in the first 41 games — and 64 percent of the time in the final 41 games. This season is right on his usual pace: Miami, despite dealing with a slew of injuries, is 24-17 going into the second half which starts at home Sunday against Milwaukee.
“He sets a phenomenal example,” Miami guard Rodney McGruder said. “You walk in here early in the morning, he’s in the weight room getting his work in. He’s already getting a sweat in before practice. Game day, he’s out there walking. It just shows he’s consistent in his approach. He does it every day and it makes you want to challenge yourself and be that consistent and like he would say, build habits.”
Spoelstra was a guard in college and has always kept a trim physique. He hasn’t played basketball in nearly a decade, giving it up for good when now-Indiana coach Nate McMillan ruptured his Achilles’ while scrimmaging with players in Portland. But with age came wisdom, he’s eating cleaner than ever and always can find the time to work on his body and mind.
Having a sister who is a nutritionist helps. So, too, does allowing himself time without his phone in some workouts.
And when he needs a different form of relaxation, his Oregon-based family keeps him supplied with cases of wine from the state’s Willamette Valley.
“Those first few times without your phone, you’re like an addict,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not just your phone, it’s your life. All these things are going through your mind simultaneously, all the noise. Now I go in, 15 or 20 seconds later, I’m in a different place. There’s physical benefits, emotional benefits, mental benefits. I’m hooked now for life.”