Erik Spoelstra, First Fil-Am Coach in the NBA

Being exposed to all the hype for the upcoming Pacquiao fight in November, it was good to know that Filipinos can succeed in other sports besides boxing. After learning that Coach Erik Spoelstra, coach of the Miami Heat was of Filipino descent it made me a little more curious and interested in basketball again (I lost interest when Michael Jordan left the Bulls).

Erik Celino Spoelstra
(born November 1, 1970 in Evanston, Illinois) is the head coach of the NBA’s Miami Heat. He is the first Filipino/Asian-American head coach in the NBA, as well as the first Filipino/Asian-American head coach of any North American professional sports team.

Coach Spoelstra’s mother is the former Elisa Celino of San Pablo, Laguna and his father, Joe Spoelstra worked as an NBA executive for teams such as the Portland Trailblazers, Denver Nuggets, Buffalo Braves and New Jersey Nets. From 2001 to 2008, he served as Assistant/Director of Scouting for the Miami Heat. Spoelstra is currently the youngest head coach in the NBA.

Becoming Head Coach of the Miami Heat

In April 2008, Spoelstra was named successor to Pat Riley as head coach of the Miami Heat. Spoelstra joined the Heat staff in 1995 as the team’s Cameraman. After two years, he was named Assistant Coach/Head Cameraman, then promoted to Assistant Coach/Advance Cameraman in 1999. He became the Assistant Coach/Director of Photography in 2001. Spoelstra is the NBA’s youngest current head coach; 69 days younger than the second youngest head coach, Lawrence Frank of the New Jersey Nets.

Cage Clinics in the Philippines

Recently, towards the end of July 2009 Spoelstra went back to his roots for a week-long coaching clinic as part of the US Department of States’ Sports Envoy Program. Coach Spoelstra conducted a series of cage clinics for out-of-school youth players, as well as interested professional cagers and coaches in Manila and Zamboanga. Along with Heat assistant David Fizdale and St. Francis College assistant coach and former WNBA All-Star Sue Wick, Spoelstra had been busy going from one clinic to another, but was generous enough to accommodate the special luncheon hosted by the PBA at Kamayan-Edsa. Joining him in the affair were PBA commissioner Sonny Barrios, Powerade-Team Pilipinas manager Jose Bayani Baylon, PBA Board of Governors Robert Non, Rene Pardo, and Atty. Memerto Mondragon and coaches Yeng Guiao of Burger King, Jong Uichico of Ginebra, Tim Cone of Alaska, Leo Isaac of Barako Bull and Boyet Fernandez of Sta. Lucia.

While in the Philippines, Spoelstra was asked about his opinions on whether a Filipino would ever enter the NBA as a player. “Why not? Think big. It’s gonna happen at some point, I don’t think anybody would have thought five years ago that there would ever be an Asian-American head coach in any major league in America” said the Fil-Am coach.

Reminded that a Filipino player by the name of Johnny Abarrientos was once considered by an NBA team, Spoelstra said it doesn’t really matter whether the first local player in the NBA is a big man, a guard or a PBA superstar.

“It will just take the right timing, the right player and the right mentality,” Spoelstra pointed out.

Fil-Am Ako’s Advice: I hope all you Filipinos who are aspiring to get into the sports profession will be encouraged by this blog post because anything can happen and don’t let stereotypes of Pinoys or discouragement (from friends and family) let you down. If an NBA coach like Erik Spoelstra believes in Filipinos making it into the NBA then all of you should too.

Miami’s Fil-Am coach in RP for cage clinics
Pinoy player may soon break into NBA, says Fil-Am Heat coach
Return to basics of basketball, says Fil-Am coach Spoelstra
THE DAILY Goes One-On-One With New Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra

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