Adopt­ing Sager’s fash­ion sense

Heat coaches don col­or­ful coats to honor late re­porter

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Gameday - By Ira Win­der­man

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.

COURTESY/MI­AMI HEAT

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.

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