With Pat Riley Looming, Miami Heat’s Slow Start Means Erik Spoelstra’s Coaching Days Are Numbered

With Pat Riley Looming, Miami Heat's Slow Start Means Erik Spoelstra's Coaching Days Are Numbered Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was in a no-win situation from the beginning. He was drawing dead to a stacked deck.

When the Heat announced they had acquired Chris Bosh, re-signed Dwyane Wade and of course, the whole "Decision" thing with LeBron James went down, analysts everywhere dubbed the Heat the favorite to win an NBA title.

Not only did everyone think the Heat would win, they thought "Three Kings" or whatever other cheesy nickname you wanted to call them, would roll to an NBA championship.

That's not out of the picture at this moment, it is only Thanksgiving after all, but following another ugly loss, an ugly 104-95 loss to division rival Orlando, the Heat are now a pedestrian 8-7. If you want to put that into even more perspective, LeBron's former team the Cavaliers, have eight losses as well, while the Raptors — Bosh's former squad — have nine defeats.

The Heat have underperformed drastically. And when you have a cast of superstars like they do, the guy calling the shots from the bench is usually the first one to go and that means Spoelstra.

There are plenty who thought from the get-go that all Spoelstra would have to do is roll out the basketballs and let his All-Star cast have at it. It's not that simple, and at the end of the day, this is not what anyone in the Miami Heat organization thought they would be seeing or wanted to be seeing.

Before too long, we might see the man who matters the most in the organization, president Pat Riley, become too fed up with things and make a change at head coach. And if he does, it's all but certain he'll tab himself as head coach.

He's done it before. He did so, as Phil Jackson reminded us Wednesday, during the 2005-06 season when Stan Van Gundy stepped down (cough, cough) and ended up taking the Heat to a title. Riley must be sitting there, thinking that if he could do it back then, he could certainly do it now.

The sad fact, too, at least for Spoelstra, is that Riley probably can do it better. He's one of the best coaches in the history of the game, but perhaps more importantly, he can handle superstars, something a young coach like Spoelstra doesn't have too much experience in.

Riley has been there and he's done that. And he's done it well. He led the Lakers to multiple titles while balancing the egoes of superstars like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He even got Patrick Ewing and the Knicks to the NBA Finals (no small feat itself) as the head coach in New York.

Really, there's no better guy in Miami for the job.

It's unfortunate for Spoelstra. He's really a lame duck at this point. Expectations were unrealistically sky-high at the start of the season. If the Heat stumbled out of the gate (like they have), it was all but certain Riley would come down and take over. If the Heat won the title, everyone would have said they were just doing what they were expected to. After all, what did everyone expect after the Heat (with Riley at the controls) assembled such a vaunted team?

The axe is coming for Spoelstra. He'll land on his feet somewhere. Here's hoping one of the brighter young coaches in the NBA gets another chance — with his own team — down the line.

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