AFTER steering the Miami Heat to the NBA championship, coach Erik Spoelstra is set to return to the warm embrace of the Filipino people as he is set for another homecoming two weeks from now.
Smart Sports marketing and special projects head Patrick Gregorio on Friday confirmed to Spin.ph Spoelstra’s scheduled arrival on August 1. The Fil-American coach had promised during his last visit here that he would return with the NBA trophy in the event of a successful Heat championship run.
Asked about the Fil-Am coach bringing the shining Larry `O Brien trophy with him, Smart Sports Executive Epok Quimpo said he has no idea but said "that would be nice" if it does push through.
True to his character, Spoelstra wants to keep things simple in his triumphant homecoming, Quimpo told Spin.ph.
“Coach Eric actually requested that his homecoming be a simple one,” said Quimpo. “Ayaw niya ng hero’s welcome. `That’s too much,’ to quote him.”
The Miami Heat won the title by beating the the Oklahoma Thunder in the finals, making Spoelstra the first coach of Asian lineage to win a championship in North America's four major sports.
Smart Sports, in cooperation with the Araneta Group, is responsible for the return of the 41-year-old coach to the country. The idea was first broached by Smart/PLDT chairman Manny V. Pangilinan during the NBA Finals.
Quimpo told Spin.ph Spoelstra will inaugurate the Green Gate of the Smart Araneta Coliseum on the day of his arrival. He is likewise set to watch Game Five of the Governors Cup Finals and possibly, be awarded a plaque of appreciation by the PBA at halftime for his achievements in the sport.
Smart Gilas-Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio said plans are being arranged for the mild-mannered coach to conduct a day-long training camp for the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas team of Chot Reyes, hopefully on August 4 when he also holds an executive coaching clinic for members of the MVP Group.
Spoelstra is set to return to the US on Aug. 5.
This marks the third time Spoelstra, whose mother Elisa Celino is from San Pablo, Laguna, is coming to the country, but the first time as NBA champion following the Heat’s 4-1 series win over the Thunder in the Finals last June.
Spoelstra’s past trips to Manila involved conducting a series of fitness events for the NBA FIT program.