Erik Spoelstra: The Fil-Am NBA coach who captured Pinoys' hearts
On Spoelstra's Facebook page, thousands of Filipinos congratulated him after the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 on Thursday to win the NBA championship 4-1, sweeping the last four games of the series. It was Miami's second NBA title after winning the championship in 2006.
Dominic Lopez : Congrats Erik Spo! Proud to be Pinoy!
Nonon N Marjorie Villamor: Congratulations Coach Erik ! Continue to inspire us Filipinos that dreams can come true..
Dc Decastro: Hey Coach -- MEGA CONGRATS! Way to represent!!! "Filipino! Filipino! Filipino! Filipino!"
Charms Ramos Estrada: Mabuhay ka Coach Erik. Congratulations to you and the Miami Heat.
Bong Cunanan Jr.: What great, exciting and competitive season. Congratulations to Miami Heat. Hats off to coach Eric...job well done Heat Team!
Gibo Sobrenilla: congrats coach... pinoy pride ;)
Mimi Torres-Gagliano: CONGRATULATIONS COACH! ANOTHER GREAT PINOY!
Joe Mazza: Good Luck po sa inyong panalo ng NBA Championship...
Drey Murillo Limon: Congrats Coach Spo! Wooot. Pinoy Pride!
Giving back to the community
Off the court, Spoelstra actively supports grassroot programs such as the NBA Cares foundation.
According to his official website, Spoelstra has been going to the Philippines during the NBA off-season to promote health and education through hosting basketball clinics for youths.
Last year, journalist Rafe Bartholomew, author of the book "Pacific Rims" about Philippine basketball, wrote an article on the Grantland news site about one of Spoelstra's basketball clinics in Manila.
"Outside the van were more than a thousand restless teenagers eager to see the NBA's only half-Filipino head coach," Bartholomew wrote about Spoelstra's trip to Torres High School for a basketball training.
"Spoelstra's trip to Manila was part of the NBA FIT program, the league's initiative to promote healthy lifestyles, and his visit to Torres was cosponsored by the Philippine Department of Health," Bartholomew said.
He described how Spoelstra swiftly began coaching after saying a brief word of thanks.
"A few of the students looked up; their black bangs were sweat-plastered to their foreheads and a hint of panic was in their eyes," Bartholomew wrote.
"Usually, these visits from basketball royalty involve little more than high-fives, layup lines, and pats on the back. NBA Asia's Ed Winkle crept behind me and whispered in my ear, 'Once he gets going, I don't think he can differentiate between these kids and his players,'" he added.
Proud to be Pinoy
Spoelstra was born and raised in the US.
He is the son of Elisa Celino, a Filipina from San Pablo, Laguna and Jon Spoelstra, a Dutch-Irish-American who worked as an NBA executive for different teams.
According to a recent report of CBS Miami, Spoelstra is proud of his Filipino heritage.
Spoelstra said he wants the world to know that Filipinos "are rabid basketball fanatics, and it’s been that way for a while.”
According to his profile on the official NBA website, he graduated from the University of Portland with a degree in communications in 1992 where he was the starting point guard for four years.
In 1995, he joined the Miami Heat as a video coordinator and climbed the ranks for 13 years working as an advance scout, director of scouting and assistant coach until he was appointed as head coach in 2008.
According to a factbox by the Reuters news agency on the Miami Heat, the team was admitted to the NBA in 1988 as an expansion franchise.
They play in the southeast division of the Eastern Conference.
Nicknamed the Heat, they have made the playoffs in 16 of their 24 seasons. They won the championship in 2006 and again in 2012 and were runners-up in 2011.
After a slow start, they began to emerge as a leading team in the mid 1990s after hiring Pat Riley as head coach, winning divisional titles in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Miami won their first championship in 2006, shortly after they had drafted Dwyane Wade and acquired Shaquille O'Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers.
In 2010-11 LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Wade at the Heat, establishing the Big Three.
In their first season together they won the Eastern Conference but lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the championship.
In 2011-12 they finished the regular season, which was shortened by a lockout, with a 46-20 record, the second best in the Eastern Conference.
In the playoffs they defeated the New York Knicks 4-1 in the first round, edged the Indiana Pacers 4-2 in the second round, beat Boston 4-3 in the Eastern Conference final then overcame Oklahoma 4-1 after losing game one.
Riley now serves as the franchise president. The head coach is Spoelstra, who spent seven years as an assistant coach and scouting director before getting promoted.
James was named as the NBA's most valuable player during the regular season and the finals. - with reports from Reuters, Andrei Medina, VVP, GMA News