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Heat assistant enjoys drive to the title

by: Rocky Widner, It’s probably the end of the line for Brian Grant’s NBA career, but don’t feel too sorry for the West Linn resident. Three different NBA teams will pay him not to play next season.

Champions, champions, more champions …

After 11 years with the Miami Heat, Erik Spoelstra appreciates how hard it is to win an NBA title. That's why the Heat's run to the 2006 crown was so fulfilling.

'It's surreal,' says Spoelstra, an assistant coach the last nine years and director of scouting the past five after beginning as a video coordinator in Miami. 'It's been phenomenal to be a part of all this, especially after being with Coach (Pat) Riley for 11 years.'

Spoelstra, 35, is a former Jesuit High standout who still shows up on many of the University of Portland career top 10 lists from his time as a point guard with the Pilots from 1988 to 1992. He is tied for second in 3-pointers made, third in assists, fifth in free-throw percentage and tied for fifth in 3-point percentage.

The national media has caught on to Spoelstra the last couple of years because of his close relationship with Dwyane Wade. Midway through Wade's rookie season (2004-05), Spoelstra became sort of a personal coach for the all-star guard, spending time after practice and before shootarounds and during the offseason working on different parts of Wade's game.

'I'll hear a knock on my office window (at the Heat training facility), and I'll know it's Dwyane, and it's time to go,' Spoelstra says. 'The goal last year was to make him one of the best midrange shooters in the league, and he took that to heart. Before this season was over, he was developing his 3-pointer. He's amazing. He has a funny way of making us all look good.'

Spoelstra will be head coach for the second straight year of Miami's summer league team in Orlando. Does he aspire to be an NBA head coach some day?

'For anybody in this business, yeah, you aspire to be a head coach,' he says. 'But I'm in no rush. It's been such a great experience learning the game and the profession from Coach Riley, and from (ex-coach) Stan Van Gundy, too.'

Memo to UP Athletic Director Larry Williams: If, in the years to come, the Pilot job opens up again, keep Spoelstra in mind. He loves the NBA, but coaching at his alma mater would be one of the few college positions in which he might be interested. Bright, passionate about the game and now well-schooled, Spoelstra would be a good fit on the Bluff.

• Not a bad couple of weeks for Central Catholic grads. Kevin Gunderson and Mark Grbavac win a national championship with Oregon State baseball. Mike Doleac earns a ring with the Heat. And Matt Santangelo (along with the NBA's No. 1 pick, Andrea Bargnani) helps Benetton Treviso to the Italian A League title.

• After Carolina beat Edmonton in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, Hurricane captain Rod Brind'Amour accepted the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Then Brind'Amour handed it to teammate Glen Wesley, who had played 1,479 regular-season and playoff games - the eighth-most in NHL history for a player who had not won a Cup.

'I'm still speechless,' says Wesley, 37, an 18-year NHL veteran who played with the Winter Hawks from 1983 to 1987. 'In a couple of weeks, I get to bring the Cup to my home for a day. We'll have family and friends fly in and celebrate with us. I think only then will it really sink in what we accomplished.'

One family member who is expected to fly to Charlotte for the Wesley celebration is older brother Blake Wesley, who played with the Hawks from 1976 to 79 and enjoyed an eight-year NHL career. Blake, an assistant coach with the Hawks in recent years, lives in Penticton, British Columbia, and instructs and coaches at the Okanagan Hockey School.

It would be a fitting time for Glen Wesley to retire, but the unrestricted free agent will probably forge on.

'We're in contract negotiations right now,' Wesley says. 'My plan is to play another year. If we keep the core together, there's no reason why we shouldn't challenge for the Cup again.'

• Dale Story didn't learn about it right away, because he was backpacking in Eagle Creek when it happened. But the former All-America distance runner at Oregon State was happy to learn the OSU baseball team had won a national championship.

'I'm really glad for them,' says Story, 64, who won the individual title and led Oregon State to its only other NCAA crown in cross country in 1961. 'I'm not a big baseball fan, but it's great for the school and for the state of Oregon.'

(For Story's story, reprinted from a Portland Tribune article published in 2001, see www.portlandtribune.com, 'Barefoot champion heeds call of the wild.')

Story, who lives in tiny Richland in northeast Oregon, is a retired schoolteacher and coach who is being inducted into the OSU Sports Hall of Fame in September along with his coach, Sam Bell.

'Can you believe that?' Story asks. 'I about fell out of my chair when (OSU women's track coach) Kelly Sullivan called me. I was tickled to death that Sam is going in. I already had my 15 minutes of glory.'

An outdoorsman, Story is healthy enough to spend a morning picking 150 pounds of cherries from a tree on his homestead that he will sell at farmers markets in Baker City and La Grande. He recently had surgery on a shoulder. 'I was out there on the hill changing sprinkler pipe with one arm,' he says.

• There is absolutely no reason, and certainly no hurry, to name anyone general manager of the Trail Blazers. The team's ownership situation must be clarified before anyone is hired to fill John Nash's position. There is no way Paul Allen will make that kind of move with a potential sale of the club being put together.

And yes, even though Allen was heavily involved - and spent a good deal of money - with the Blazers' draft last week, it doesn't mean he has decided not to sell. Allen is off on some sort of European junket for a couple of weeks. When he returns, he'll get together with the Vulcan group and team President Steve Patterson and map out a plan for the future.

If Allen decides to keep the club, a new GM could be in place before the upcoming season. Kevin Pritchard, the director of player personnel, didn't hurt his chances with his work on this draft. But everyone within the organization was impressed with the contributions of scout John Gabriel, the former Orlando GM who worked the war room phones on Portland's behalf on draft night. Gabriel will be a candidate, too, along with some outside names.

• The Blazers, incidentally, paid $4 million in buying two first-round picks, giving $3 million to Phoenix for the No. 27 and paying Minnesota $1 million to switch No. 6 and No. 7. Though Minnesota GM Kevin McHale told the media no other teams tried to acquire the sixth pick, Houston desired Brandon Roy and probably at least made overtures to the Timberwolves for the pick.

As for the money scrounged up to draft Spanish point guard Sergio Rodriguez at No. 27, Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters he wasn't sure how much money Allen has lost with his NBA team, 'but he lost a hell of a lot more tonight.'

• Boston GM Danny Ainge says the Celtics will waive Brian Grant, acquired in a draft-night trade with Phoenix, so it may be the end of the line for the veteran forward who makes his home in West Linn. But Grant won't have to hit a bread line anytime soon. Next season, he will be paid by three clubs not to play basketball - $14.5 million from the L.A. Lakers as result of the 2005-06 amnesty rule, $1.8 million from Boston to make the trade work and $200,000 from the Suns via a trade kicker.

• A recent Sports Illustrated poll has 10 percent of major league players calling Beaverton's Jim Joyce the game's best umpire, second only to Tim McClelland. 'It's pretty cool,' says Joyce, 50, a 19-year veteran who has worked two All-Star games and two World Series. 'I'm glad they know I work hard at my job and that I have the respect of the players. It's a good accolade to have.'

• On Monday, the Rashad Floyd Receiver/Defensive Back Academy for ages 11 and up begins a series of sessions at three Portland-area locations. The former Portland State standout, now with the Arena Football League Colorado Crush, provides individualized instruction - no more than four players per session - along with video analysis and speed and agility work. For information call 503-998-9351 or e-mail Floyd at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Floyd was named to the all-Arena second team for the second time despite setting an all-time league record for tackles and finishing third in the league with 10 regular-season interceptions. Floyd was one of five players who received votes for the league's defensive player of the year award, won by Columbus' Jerald Brown.

'I felt I should have been first-team all-Arena,' says Floyd, 27, who lives in Troutdale and operates Amalfi's Restaurant in Northeast Portland. 'I had my best season ever. It makes me hungrier for next year. I have to get better. I have something to work toward.'

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