Erik Spoelstra was on the sidelines when he had his moment of clarity.
Only, it came on a football field in Eugene, Ore., and with an Oregon Ducks logo, not a Miami Heat one, on his collared shirt.
On a sunny August morning, two months removed from watching his Heat team collapse against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, Spoelstra stood on the sidelines at the Ducks’ training camp, trying to absorb any insight into the contrarian mind of famed Ducks football coach Chip Kelly.
This was the first stop on what Spoelstra refers to as his lockout-induced sabbatical, a trip born of summer boredom. After six weeks of cathartic film marathons in his Miami office, Spoelstra finally had enough, so he mapped out a tour around the country to pick the brains of the collegiate coaching ranks.
“The No. 1 thing I was trying to do was learn,” said Spoelstra, who is beginning his fourth season as the Heat’s head coach. “I had a lot of time on my hands and I didn’t just want to sit there.”
As he saw it, the NBA’s labor stalemate offered a rare opportunity to become a student again — on a college campus, no less.
It’s fitting that Spoelstra, an Oregon native, kicked off his tour in Eugene. For two coaches who shared similar success so early in their coaching careers, the meeting between Spoelstra and Kelly was long overdue. Not to mention that each has recently come excruciatingly close to winning his first championship.
Over the course of a two-hour conversation on the sidelines, Kelly explained in detail the thinking behind his wildly successful up-tempo spread offense. Spoelstra hung on Kelly’s every word. Not just because he is a Ducks fan. But because it was all coming together. Finally.
As Kelly spoke, Spoelstra’s mind was consumed with one idea:
“Could a no-huddle spread offense work in the NBA?”