Coach should not be blamed for mess in Miami

Coach should not be blamed for mess in Miami

Alex Mellion
Journal Staff

The Miami Heat came into the season as Eastern Conference favorites, a team labeled as one of the best in the league.  They were going to win 73 games [the NBA record is 72], Lebron James was going to average a triple-double [nobody has done that over the course of an entire season since Oscar Robertson, who did so back in 1961-62], and the team was supposed to dominate all their opponents en route to an NBA Championship.

After 18 games, the team is an average 10-8, which is good for third place out of five in their division.  The Miami Heat are not a juggernaut of a team yet, and coach Erik Spoelstra is not the one the players should be mad at.  It is not Spoelstra’s fault the team is underachieving.

An unwritten rule in virtually all major sports says that when a team with high expectations is underachieving, it’s automatically the coach’s fault.  Take Wade Phillips, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, or Brad Childress, former coach of the Minnesota Vikings, as an example.

The Cowboys and Vikings were both supposed to be Super Bowl contenders this season, yet they both have woefully underachieved up to this point. And what was the result of that? Both Phillips and Childress were fired within 13 days of each other.

Owners Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Ziggy Wilf of the Vikings made their coaches the scapegoats.  But is the coach the one who is out on the playing field night after night?  No, it’s the athletes who are playing, and because of that, they are the ones who should be held responsible.  While Spoelstra and the rest of his coaching staff do draw up plays, it’s the players’ responsibility to execute them.

Spoelstra isn’t on the court setting picks for Lebron James and Dwayne Wade to get open, so in turn, James and Wade can’t blame him for their early season struggles.

Coming into the season, a lot of questions loomed about whether or not Spoelstra was the right coach to handle the three superstars over in Miami.  People were calling for legendary coach Pat Riley to step down as president of the Heat and come back to the sidelines, mainly because he has had experience dealing with superstars before, and could mold Wade, Bosh and James into a cohesive unit. Spolestra has had success in his two-plus seasons as a coach so far, leading the team to back-to-back playoff appearances.  As the Miami Heat get better, fewer critics will call out Spolestra for his lack of experience.

Obviously, it’s natural to make a coach the scapegoat if a team is struggling, but all members of that team, whether it’s the players, coaches or the general manager, have to be accountable for the successes or failures of the team.

Players like James and Wade are getting paid the big bucks in order to produce big-time numbers, and win a lot of games.  It is time to stop putting the blame on the coaches and start holding the players responsible for the failures of their teams. Because whether people want to admit it or not, the two stars are the reason for their slow start.