MANILA, Philippines -- Erik Spoelstra's journey from video coordinator to head coach of the Miami Heat has gained him the respect and admiration of many of his fellow coaches -- and Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns is no exception.
During a recent appearance on NBA Republika Huddle presented by NBA Philippines, Williams expressed his great respect for Spoelstra, who is currently leading the Heat against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Though the Heat are down 1-3 to the Lakers in the best-of-seven series, the job that Spoelstra did in leading Miami to the championship round was widely praised.
"I believe that Spo is gonna go down in the history of the game as one of the best coaches in the history of our game," Williams declared.
Spoelstra, now 49 years old, was handpicked by Heat president Pat Riley to replace him on the sidelines in 2008. Since then, he has steered Miami to two championships, and this season he and the Heat blew away all expectations in making the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014.
Williams called Spoelstra a "grinder," marveling at how he worked his way up from being a video coordinator with Miami in 1995 to now one of the longest-serving head coaches in the league.
"Now, he's viewed as probably one of the Top 5, maybe Top 3 coaches in the NBA," said Williams. "I watch certain coaches and programs around the league, and I've been watching Spo for a long time. I respect what he does, I respect his approach."
"Your country should be so proud of how he's represented, because he's absolutely phenomenal in what he does," he added.
For Williams, what makes Spoelstra so good at his job, aside from his work ethic, is his ability to adapt to new styles and to the new talent that his team gets. "Spo" found great success when the Heat had the Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, making it to the four straight finals. He maximized the abilities of the three players with a "pace and space" style that allowed all three to flourish.
Even when James left the Heat, however, Spoelstra was still able to keep the team afloat, and they made the playoffs in 2016 and 2018. This year, with veteran guard Jimmy Butler and versatile big man Bam Adebayo leading the way, the Heat rampaged through the Eastern Conference playoffs en route to the NBA Finals.
"He's gone from basically ground and pound when he first started, and now they're basically free-flowing and shooting 40 3s a night," said Williams. "And he's always been able to get the most out of his group."
"I have a great deal of respect for Spo. He's gonna be in the Hall of Fame someday. He's been able to win in different ways," he added.
"I think you guys should be proud of him, and I really believe he's gonna go down as one of the best coaches in the history of the game."
Spoelstra, whose mother is Filipino, traces his roots to San Pablo, Laguna. He has made a couple of trips to the Philippines, holding clinics for coaches and players.