MANILA, Philippines – There is no doubt that Filipino-American basketball coach Erik Spoelstra has reached the pinnacle of his coaching career by steering the Miami Heat to its second title in six years.
But his career may have taken a different course had he opted to play in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
In an interview with ABS-CBN’s TJ Manotoc, the 41-year-old National Basketball Association (NBA) coach revealed that he regrets missing the chance to play in Asia’s first play-for-pay league.
“Right after college, that’s probably one of my few regrets in my life, that I didn’t get to go there and play,” he said.
Before focusing on full-time coaching, Spoelstra played for the University of Portland Pilots and was named the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year.
Spoelstra was the Pilots' starting point guard for four years, averaging 9.2 points, 4.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. He eventually became a member of Portland's 1,000-point club.
After college, he spent two years as a player/coach for TuS Herten, a German professional basketball team.
It was there that he decided to become a coach rather than a player, which is why he no longer pursued a career in the PBA.
“I wanted to be a high school coach or coach in college when I was in my early 20s,” he said.
Meanwhile, Spoelstra is grateful for the Filipino support, as shown by the warm welcome he gets whenever he holds the NBA FIT program in the Philippines.
He said he has always been proud of his Filipino roots.
“Thank you so much for the support, the support even before we won it, and hopefully we do gain some new fans now, but the love and response that we got to when I took my staff over [to the Philippines] every year the last 3 years was incredible,” said Spoelstra.
“I'm proud to be Filipino.”