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Riley: Heat coach Spoelstra gets new contract

MIami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra watches the last minutes of an NBA basketball practice session while talking to media members in Miami, Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. MIami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra watches the last minutes of an NBA basketball practice session while talking to media members in Miami, Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
By Tim Reynolds
AP Sports Writer / December 16, 2011
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MIAMI—Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat have agreed on a contract extension, ending any speculation that Pat Riley's protege would be a lame-duck coach this season.

Riley, the team president, made the announcement Friday. The Heat typically does not release terms of deals for coaches and executives, and Riley did not divulge any details of Spoelstra's extension. Spoelstra is beginning his fourth season as coach and his 17th season with the team overall.

"We have one of the great young coaches in the league, an absolute member of this family and has been for a long time, so we want him to become a Hall of Famer," Riley said Friday. "So it's been taken care of."

The 41-year-old Spoelstra was not available for immediate comment. The Heat had the day off Friday, and Riley spoke at his annual preseason availability.

Earlier this week, Spoelstra said he did not expect his contract to be a distraction, noting that Riley and the Arison family have never given him any reason to be worried about his status with the organization.

"It's a family here," Spoelstra said, "and I'm part of that."

Riley also addressed his own status with the team, reaffirming that he loves his role in Miami and does not see himself leaving any time soon.

In his first three seasons, Spoelstra has gone 148-98 in regular-season games, 18-15 in playoff games. A year ago, he led the Heat to a 58-24 mark and a 14-7 record in the postseason, where Miami lost the NBA finals to Dallas in six games.

"Me and Erik, our relationship will continue to grow," Heat forward LeBron James said this week. "It's much better today than it was the first day of practice last year. We didn't know each other at all. We were still learning each other. We'd seen each other from a distance. I'd seen him coach from the sideline ... he'd seen me play while he was coaching from the sideline. Our relationship is really good right now. I'm happy with where we are right now."

Riley said the team has been working on Spoelstra's deal "for a while."

Spoelstra came to the Heat in 1995, working his way up from the video room. Spoelstra was particularly close to Stan Van Gundy during his stint in Miami. When Van Gundy stepped down in 2005, Riley took over, and Spoelstra became the heir apparent.

When Riley decided in 2008 that his coaching days were over again, he and Heat owner Micky Arison quickly agreed Spoelstra was the right one for the job. Clearly, that hasn't changed.

"I think he's so much more comfortable his own skin," Riley said. "Contrary to what people might think, I am not a helicopter flying over the top of him all the time. I give him tremendous freedom and space, because I trust the fact that he's in there working every day. He is somebody who is very innovative, and he's not afraid to take some risks."

Riley is a regular onlooker at practice, and he and Spoelstra talk just about every day. But Riley insists the coaching is done by Spoelstra and his staff.

"He does a great job on the bench coming out of timeouts and being prepared for things," Riley said. "And I think the experience last year of also being in the finals and going down to the game that meant the difference in your season and going through that and that pain will help him. I think he's grown leaps and bounds, and he's the perfect coach for this team."

The core of Heat players -- James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and so on -- are all under contract for several years to come.

Riley thought it was vital to have their coach be in the same position.

"He never would have been a lame-duck coach even though (media) would have made him one," Riley said. "Guy in the last year in his contract, that wasn't the reason why we did it. The reason why we did it is because we wanted to extend him and keep him in the family and not have somebody come in and steal him away from us. I mean that sincerely ... and I think the players feel the same way."

NOTES: Riley said F Mike Miller was never a candidate to be designated as the team's amnesty player this season. "We want Mike to play for us and make jumpers and help us and just like he did in the playoffs," Riley said. ... His thoughts on the end of last season and what he learned: "What I learned about last year is what I learned about every year that you don't win a championship: You feel misery. That's all."

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Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds

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