Title-winner: Filipinos bask in Spoelstra’s success as Heat coach
Porac, Pampanga, Philippines (AHN Sports) – The controversial loss of boxing legend Manny Pacquiao to Timothy Bradley broke millions of Filipino hearts, bringing the Philippines to a state of mourning.
Some Filipinos broke into tears while others were speechless after hearing Michael Buffer’s announcement that Bradley won by split decision during their June 9 fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
But the pain brought by Pacquiao’s loss has been eased with the victory of Filipino-American coach Erik Spoelstra’s Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, giving them a reason to hold their heads up high again.
Spoelstra made history as the first Filipino and Asian coach to steer a major US professional sports team to a championship after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 4-1, in the best-of-seven series.
“I’m no Miami Heat fan as I was rooting for the Thunder,” confessed jeepney driver Ernesto Layno of Porac, Pampanga. “But I’m very proud of what coach Erik has achieved for our country and for all of us Filipinos.”
“It certainly helps to have another Filipino achiever in the field of sports. In some way, it helps us forget what happened to Manny (Pacquiao),” added Aldwyn Comayas, another jeepney driver waiting for early morning passengers going to the public market in Angeles City.
Comayas said Filipinos should also learn from Spoelstra’s perseverance amid criticism after the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks last year during the first season of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh playing together in the land of oranges.
Malacanang also congratulated Spoelstra for bringing glory to the Filipino people once again after winning the NBA championship.
“Although the Office of the President did not side with any team, it is proud of the fact that the Miami Heat’s coach is of Filipino descent,” said Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Spoelstra’s mother, Elisa Celino, is from San Pablo, Laguna. His Dutch-Irish-American father, Jon Spoelstra, worked as an executive with various NBA teams.
A starting guard at the University of Portland, Spoelstra considered playing for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in 1992 after his college days in the Pacific Northwest.
But his plan did not materialize. Instead he saw action in Germany before getting hired as a video coordinator by the Miami Heat in 1995.
Spoelstra has visited the Philippines for the past three summers to conduct basketball clinics.
On his website, Spoelstra shared how he felt during his trips to the Philippines. “Both trips were transformational — truly life changing. I was born and raised in the US, and even though I visited the Philippines when I was a kid, I’ve always wanted a stronger connection with the culture and my family living there,” he said.
Spoelstra is proud of his Filipino lineage and said he wants the world to know that Filipinos “are rabid basketball fanatics, and it’s been that way for a while,” as he told the CBS affiliate in Miami.
He also mentioned how his family flew over from the Philippines last weekend to watch the NBA Finals.
They have much to be proud of in a coach that persevered, guiding a team that did the same.