Tennessee football coach Butch Jones is hoping to be the Miami Heat’s good-luck charm for the second year in a row.
Jones will fly to Miami to attend Game 7 of the NBA Finals as a guest of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
The Heat won a thrilling Game 6 in overtime 103-100 on Tuesday, setting up a decisive game Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Jones was sitting courtside last year when the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 to win that series, 4-1.
Jones scored the seats through his friendship with Spoelstra, the fifth-year Heat head coach who has led the star-laden Heat to three consecutive NBA Finals.
The two coaches met through their shared agent, Trace Armstrong.
“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.”
Jones has made no secret of his admiration for Spoelstra’s work with the Heat, a team that has been under intense scrutiny and been given high expectations since the arrival of LeBron James in 2010.
“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 has said he hopes Spoelstra is able to visit Knoxville later this summer to take in a practice and meet with the team.
“He’s a big football fan,” Jones said.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.