When you watch professional sports teams, the coach often represents the identity. The Patriots emulate Bill Belichick’s business-like stoicism. The Tigers patient professionalism is indicative of the battle-tested Jim Leyland. During these NBA finals, you’ll look at the sidelines, and you’ll see the same thing. You’ll see young coaches, too naive to be afraid, winning games the way fearless people do. Then you’ll see the teams, flashy but discipline, ushering a new generation into the NBA. Sure, there’s a tremendous difference in coaching philosophy, but in the Venn diagram of Scott Brooks and Erik Spoelstra, there’s a lot in the middle.
Both coaches took over their teams in 2008, and both have seen grand expectations. Both have had precious success early in their careers, but both have seen their share of criticism. The truth is, the coaching matchup is as close as the series matchup. It could go either way, and you’re splitting hairs by making decisions.
Erik Spoelstra has been bashed since day one of the big three era, and I imagine there isn’t anything he could do to prove he’s doing a good job. If they win a championship, he’s simply having his team play the way they should. He’s found a way to turn these three superstars into a unified group focused on defense. The irony is their play is the opposite of their image.
Scott Brooks hasn’t felt the same pressure as Spoelstra, but he dealt with a very sticky Westbrook-Durant relationship and eventually molded it into partnership. The X’s and O’s of Brooks and Spoelstra are irrelevant. What’s important about the coaching matchup is recognizing that these two have their teams buying into what they’re selling, and whichever coach wins a title will have earned it.