Butch Jones, Erik Spoelstra built friendship on coaching values

UT, Heat coaches similar in philosophies

Miami Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra reacts after a foul on his team in the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns during an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Miami Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra reacts after a foul on his team in the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns during an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Butch Jones

Butch Jones

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The Miami Heat had just clinched the NBA championship last summer and there amid the celebration, ushered from his courtside seats to the champagne-drenched Heat locker room, was Butch Jones.

How did the then-Cincinnati football coach end up in Miami at courtside in Game 5 for the hottest ticket in the country?

Like many things involving the first-year Tennessee coach, it came down to relationships, in this case one forged with Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.

Introduced through their mutual agent, the two coaches met up for dinner one night and quickly realized they spoke the same language.

“We really hit it off,” Jones said. “We started to build a relationship and that trust factor. We found out we believe in a lot of the same core values and principles about motivating and developing your team from a leadership standpoint. And then we just kept talking and talking.”

This year, Spoelstra and the Heat are back in the NBA Finals, trailing the San Antonio Spurs 2-1 in a series that resumes with Game 4 on Thursday. Jones probably won’t be able to make it down to Miami to take in a game, but he has extended an open invitation to Spoelstra to visit Knoxville later this summer.

“We’ve spoken about it,” Jones said. “When I got the job, he was one of the first individuals to text me. So he is a big football fan. I would assume that he’ll be here at some point in time when his schedule allows it to, to watch practice and take a few things in.”

Spoelstra and Jones might not appear to have much in common, but they’ve both reached the highest levels of their profession after starting at the lowest rungs.

Spoelstra, 42, grew up in Oregon and was a point guard at the University of Portland before embarking on a coaching career that began as a video coordinator with the Heat in 1995. He was an assistant with the team in various roles before being elevated to head coach after the 2007-2008 season.

After first-round exits in his first two seasons, the Heat have now made three consecutive NBA Finals.

Spoelstra’s roster is loaded with talent, including megastar LeBron James, but he’s earned praise for his coaching acumen and his ability to manage so many big personalities.

“I think the job that he’s done has been remarkable,” Jones said. “I think everybody thinks that because you have some of the greatest collection of talent, that you just roll the ball out there and you play. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. What he has done to build that (group) into a team is remarkable. I think he’s got one of the most difficult, challenging jobs in the coaching profession.”

Jones said he’s learned from Spoelstra’s ability to block out “clutter” and focus players on what’s really important.

In some ways, Jones said, Spoelstra reminds him a lot of a football coach.

“I think there’s a lot of parallels and similarities. It still comes down to trying to gain every edge you can,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s football or basketball, a lot of times you’re galvanized by a lot of the same beliefs.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 13

thevoice writes:

Ability to create relationships inside and outside of the industry have been missing from the last 2 coaches. I really like this part about Jones.

VolzsFan writes:

in response to thevoice:

Ability to create relationships inside and outside of the industry have been missing from the last 2 coaches. I really like this part about Jones.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

thevoice writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm not sure what tossing salad means, but I never thought for a minute Dooley was a coach after the UNC game and only believed in Kiffin for 1/2 season.

Snapshot writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How about we bank on this, you taking a hike, troll. I'm sure you can find some cooking site to take your "salad tossing" to.

milhaudmeto writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow...I did not realize we had Nostradamus pretending to be a VOLS fans? Possibly the 500 years or so being un-dead has clouded his clairvoyant abilities?

CroKev writes:

That is really amazing! The coach of the NBA champs started off as a "video coordinator" for the same franchise. That's on par with Kurt Warner working in a grocery store before becoming the MVP of the Super Bowl champs..

tarter_sauce writes:

in response to thevoice:

I'm not sure what tossing salad means, but I never thought for a minute Dooley was a coach after the UNC game and only believed in Kiffin for 1/2 season.

if your ever taking a stroll somewhere and you pass some dude and he has a shirt on with a picture of himself and Fulmer holding hands with a caption above that says" Best Friends Forever " it will be that clown VolsFan . Bank it

dragon18 writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I don't know what your basis for that comment could possibly be. The evidence about Butch Jones is to the contrary, He has won at every stop he has made as a head coach. Yes, this is the SEC and is the height of college football, but Jones has a system and a group of coaches that sure seem to "get it" to me. The jury is out because he hasn't coached a game yet, but every statement about whether he will make it or not make it is purely speculation. If you are going to make a statement about his possible success you should look at his track record and it is pretty darn good.

Oh and if this really is bitterness about the way Fulmer was handled as some on here suggest, please get over it. We have to unite as a fan base at some time and the Butch Jones era seems like a great place to start.

usafvol writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

gc_scvol writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Didn't have the pleasure (?) of reading this clown's comment, but it sopunds as though he is very sick and should have his comments, under any name blocked for life. Come on, this stuff is getting just a little pathetic.

volistic writes:

I have a very good feeling about this coach. I just hope everyone will be patient for the first two years.

voloffaith writes:

valZ is a chomper fan if my recollection be good. Coach Jones appears to be a quality individual and we will see as the season progresses about his coaching acumen. Heat tied it at 2 a piece last night. So it will return to South Beach.....

BolivrBob writes:

EVERYTHING Jones has done so far has been right on the money and he's made a beliver out of me. 6-6 for sure, (although nothing is for sure). Prediction 9-3...Citrus Bowl

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