The NBA finals will tip off on Thursday, with Filipino-American Erik Spoelstra leading once more the Miami Heat for the sixth time in his head coaching career.
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Mike Malone also brought the Denver Nuggets to their first NBA finals appearance.
Prior to the tip off, analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy who will be calling the finals for ABC, shared their thoughts on the match up and on Spoelstra.
“The job Spoelstra has done consistently from peaks and valleys,” said Jackson, “has been inspiring for anybody across sports. It’s great to see him getting back to the finals and being recognized.”
Spoelstra has been with the Heat organization for 28 years. He became the head coach in 2008 and is the second longest-tenured head coach in the league.
For Van Gundy and Jackson, both former head coaches, the Heat’s commitment and Spoelstra’s consistency have been the keys to his success.
“When I look at his team, I think of habits and consistency,” said Van Gundy. “I marvel at what they’re able to do. None of that is possible if you don’t have the continuity.”
He added: “I think it has allowed him (Spoelstra) to be the best version of who he is. He’s a hall of fame coach. The best in Miami Heat history, obviously.”
Meanwhile, Malone, who has been with the Nuggets for eight years, is the fourth longest tenured active coach.
Like Spoelstra, he believes his front office trusting him with the franchise for that length has paid off with this finals appearance.
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“The most important part of these eight years was their ability to be patient,” Malone said, “and have a big picture approach and let this thing grow into what it is today.”
Game 1 of the NBA finals will kick off on Thursday night in Denver, where Malone and the Nuggets have been well rested for the past week after their sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers.