Adopting Sager’s fashion sense
Heat coaches don colorful coats to honor late reporter
MIAMI – Erik Spoelstra changed it up earlier this season when he dared to sport a burgundy suit. The Miami Heat lost. That element of coaching attire has not been seen since.
Yet Friday night, in the 106-101 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans at AmericanAirlines Arena, Spoelstra made what he considered his ultimate fashion statement, one with a backstory about more than design element.
As with the rest of his staff, Spoelstra sported a gaudy blazer as part of the NBA’s tribute to late TNT sideline analyst Craig Sager, as part of Craig Sager Jacket Day and the fundraising arm of the V Foundation for cancer research.
For Spoelstra it was a dual statement, which made the choice even more profound.
“There’s quite a few coaching staffs around the league that are doing this to honor Craig Sager,” Spoelstra said. “And an even bigger thing (is) to carry on the torch that he started with this awful, awful thing we know as cancer. And the Jimmy V Foundation, this is just to bring some more light to it, to try to raise more awareness, raise more money.
“And for us that knew Craig, I got to know him when I was a scout, 20 years ago, being on the road all the time, and then what he stood for. And if you have an opportunity, please do watch his speech at the ESPYs. That was great, just talking about how important time is. So this was something that we definitely wanted to do because of our friendships with Craig.”
Spoelstra then spoke of a second element of the fashion choice: his close ties to Hall of Fame coach and former Heat television analyst Dr. Jack Ramsay, the colorful sideline presence who was a part of Spoelstra’s youth while growing up in Portland as a Trail Blazers fan.
“I also thought this would be a good thing just to honor Coach Ramsay,” he said. “I wanted to do that last year and I didn’t do it. On his birthday [Feb. 21], I was going to wear something as a sign of respect. But this all fits and hopefully we can raise some more awareness.”
The statement was embraced by his players.
“I thought he looked great,” guard Dwyane Wade said. “I thought it was great. Coach always preaches to players to get out of their comfort zone, and [Friday] he had to get out of his comfort zone so it was amazing.”
The uniforms: Spoelstra and Wade downplayed the last-minute switch away from the scheduled Vice Nights uniforms Friday night as being any factor in breaking the six-game losing streak the Heat had in the colorful City Edition uniforms.
“Actually it had nothing to do with that,” Spoelstra said of the move to the team’s red “Statement” jerseys that most often are worn on the road. “We’ve done this before as an organization when we go to the red uniforms, just to change the dynamic.
“We love the Vice campaign. Our players love it. Our staff loves it. This was just something that we wanted to do for a game to mix it up and it really had nothing to do with anything other than that.”
The black Vice Nights uniforms had been in the players’ locker stalls an hour before Friday’s opening tip.
“You put the jersey on and you wear it,” Wade said. “It has nothing to do with winning or losing. I don’t make those decisions.
“I’m a player. I came in, it was in my locker, I put it on and went out there. You’ve got to take that on with the higher-ups.”
The Heat are again listed on the NBA’s official website as wearing the Vice Nights uniforms for Sunday’s 6 p.m. game against the visiting Utah Jazz.
The team remained with the alternate Vice Nights court and Vice Nights player introductions for Friday’s game.
The Miami Heat coaching staff paid a fashion tribute Friday to late TNT sideline analyst Craig Sager as part of a cancerawareness program. Sager was famous for his clothing choices, which included a number of colorful sport coats.