|Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade ( L ) chats with Head Coach Erik Spoelstra on stage with the championship trophy between them in Miami, Florida June 25, 2012. Photo by Andrew Innerarity, Reuters.
MANILA, Philippines – The Miami Heat's crushing loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals provided the team with the motivation to improve and aim for a better result in 2012, according to the team's Filipino-American head coach Erik Spoelstra.
"We all went through an incredible amount of professional pain last year," Spoelstra said in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN’s TJ Manotoc. "It was heartbreaking."
The Heat, with the All-Star trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, were highly favored against the Mavericks in last season’s Finals.
But with Dirk Nowitzki playing at a high level, backed-up by super-sub Jason Terry, point guard Jason Kidd and defensive anchor Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks surprised the Heat en route to winning the title in six games.
The Heat were heavily criticized by United States media for their failure, especially since prior to the start of the season, James promised to win multiple championships for the franchise.
"We thought we really had an opportunity to win and get it done," Spoelstra said. "Dallas, you have to give them credit."
The Heat's season ended on a happier note in 2012: after a hard-fought seven-game series against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the Finals.
It was only the franchise's second NBA title, with their first one coming in 2006, when Wade teamed up with legendary center Shaquille O’Neal to beat the Mavericks in six games.
|LeBron James and the Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. Reuters.
But Spoelstra and the rest of the Heat were forced to deal with the pain of their 2011 Finals failure for an extended period of time, because of the NBA lockout that was enforced shortly after the end of the season.
"We had a lot of time to think about it, to reflect on it, and then, the lockout happened," Spoelstra said. "But we all decided – the players and the staff, the whole organization – that everybody needed to own it, for it to become just a part of the journey."
"If we were going to change the result the next year, we'd have to get better," he added. "And that was part of my personal journey, with my coaching staff, was to make sure that we were better."
In the off-season, Spoelstra consulted with several other coaches, including a college football coach, in order to learn how to maximize the Heat's advantages over other teams.
"I wanted to meet with as many coaches, and that took me to Eugene, Oregon," he said.
Spoelstra met with Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly, who employs an up-tempo, spread offense that has led to great success for the football team.
Tom Haberstroh of ESPN wrote about Spoelstra and Kelly's meeting, wherein the Heat coach learned how to apply Kelly's spread offense to Miami's system.
"How exactly do you turn a collection of world-class athletes into a merciless scoring machine?... Kelly's answer made all the sense in the world to Spoelstra," Haberstroh wrote.
"To leverage the team's blinding athleticism, Kelly told him, one must spread the floor, turn up the pace and let it fly. Pace and space are essential," he added.
Spoelstra said Kelly's "unique brand of football" was something his team could relate to.
"The pace, and how we wanted to play differently. (We wanted) to use our speed and athleticism more this upcoming season," he said.
Spoelstra also spoke to college basketball coaches Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University), Billy Donovan (University of Florida), John Calipari (University of Kentucky), Tom Crean (University of Indiana), and another college football coach, Urban Meyer (Ohio State University).
This season, the Heat played at a faster pace, taking advantage of James, Wade and Bosh’s athleticism to outrun their opponents. They were a specially dangerous team on the open floor, pouncing on their opponent's mistakes to produce highlight reels in transition.
The Heat finished the regular season with a 46-20 record, first in the Southeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference.
But for Spoelstra, winning the championship and getting back on top of the mountain is not an excuse for him or for his players to be satisfied.
"We had a lot of new ideas that we used this year," he said. "And we don't want to stop now." -- With a report from TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News.