Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was named as one of three finalists for the NBA's Coach of the Year Award on Friday.
Spoelstra was joined by Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets and Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs as finalists for the award. All three coaches have plenty of reasons to win the award, but Spoelstra's story could end up being the most captivating.
When the NBA Coaches Association handed out a Coach of the Year award earlier this month, Spoelstra and D'Antoni shared the honor. That award was voted on by every head coach in the league, while this honor was chosen by independent members of the media.
D'Antoni and Popovich took their teams to the playoffs, with the Spurs still alive for a possible berth in the NBA Finals. Spoelstra's Heat headed home early this year, but almost reached the postseason due to an improbable second half. After beginning the season 11-30, Miami went 30-11 in the next 41 games. That run made the Heat the first team in NBA history to reach .500, after beginning the season 11-30.
Despite winning two NBA titles, Spoelstra has not won the award in previous years. Working with a young and depleted roster this season, Spoelstra was able to get the most out of his players every evening. That work ethic and strong coaching allowed Miami to turn around the season and brought renewed hope for 2017-18.
Miami has only had one Coach of the Year in franchise history and that came all the way back in 1997. Pat Riley who is now the team president took home the honors that year, when the Heat went 61-21. Miami would end up falling in the conference finals, but it was a memorable season for the young franchise.
The Coach of the Year Award will be announced alongside the league's other awards during a live broadcast on June 26th.