Celebrating Erik Spoelstra’s Portland Roots Ahead of Another NBA Finals Appearance


The NBA Finals isn’t anything new for Erik Spoelstra.

The 52-year-old head coach of the Miami Heat is headed to his sixth Finals as head coach since taking over for Pat Riley in 2008.

After blowing out the Boston Celtics on the road in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Spoelstra’s Heat became the first team since the 1998-99 New York Knicks to reach the Finals as an 8-seed. They will face the Western Conference’s top-seed Denver Nuggets, with Game One tipping off Thursday night in Denver.

Spoelstra grew up in the Portland area while his father, Jon Spoelstra, worked as an executive with the Trail Blazers. Young Spo attended grade school at Raleigh Hills Elementary, middle school at Whitford, and high school at Jesuit, where he played point guard and graduated in the class of 1988.

From there, Spoelstra attended the University of Portland, playing four seasons on the Pilot’s men’s basketball team. He was named West Coast Conference freshman of the year in 1989, and for his career he averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 assists per game and is part of UP’s 1,000-point scorers club. He still ranks fourth in program history with 488 career assists.

“I had it in my mind that I was going to play somewhere mid-major level, and Portland ended up being the best option,” Spoelstra said in 2019 in a video piece published by the WCC. “Ended up there for four years, and it was a great experience.”

Spoelstra played two professional seasons overseas in Germany before deciding to take a chance at getting an NBA gig by accepting a video intern coordinator position in 1995 with the Miami Heat.

By ’97, he was an assistant coach. By 2008, at 37 years old, he replaced Riley as head coach. Spoelstra guided Miami to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade starring from 2011-14, winning two. The Heat returned to the Finals in the Bubble in 2020, and are now back for a seventh time in franchise history, seeking a fourth NBA title (2006, 2012, 2013).

Spoelstra grew up attending Trail Blazers games, and said he wore the jersey number 30 at Jesuit and UP because of his love for former Blazers point guard Terry Porter.