This is what TV analyst and former coach Jeff Van Gundy said last June during Game 3 of the NBA Finals, before the fourth quarter, long before so much of the series' drama still echoing as a new season moves into view:
"Erik Spoelstra is going to the Hall of Fame."
When this is mentioned to Spoelstra after a Heat practice this week, he chuckles uncomfortably and says, "That's hubris." He returns to a more comfortable subject. Which is this season. Or, more precisely, habits.
"Building habits," Spoelstra says, is what the endless regular season is about. Habits are key. Habits are necessary, he says. It's trite and coachspeak, but maybe it's really what Van Gundy was getting at in charting the Heat coach's path.
Habits, as you'll see, built from November became what Spoelstra's team clung to in June with last season on the line, the seconds dwindling the accumulated stress so high he later woke in the middle of every night for a week after the final game, scrambling out of bed, thinking a game was coming.
"It would then hit me, 'It's over, we won,' " Spoelstra said.
This wasn't new. It happens every season. After losing to Dallas in the Finals in 2011, he'd wake up in the middle of the night in the same way, scrambling to prepare for the next game, only to realize there was no next game.
"Then I'd get this awful feeling, knowing it was over," he says.
If LeBron James had a basketball trial on a grand stage these past few years, Spoelstra had one of a different scope. But, as with LeBron, maybe the way Spoelstra delivered means everything won't be a referendum on his talent anymore.
Maybe every big game the Heat plays now won't demand a verdict on Spoelstra's job, and if the players respect him, and if he's up for managing the big egos or adjusting in game strategy.
If you can't conclude that from watching Spoelstra these last few years, pull down the microscope a bit more. Don't even look at Spoelstra. Look at what happened to the coach on the other sideline in the two biggest series last spring.
Look at the decisions a good, young coach like Indiana's Frank Vogel and a Hall of Famer in San Antonio's Gregg Popovich suffered through this off-season. More importantly, look why coaches of this pedigree made such decisions.
All last year, Spoelstra preached, "position-less basketball." It was his mantra. A center? Didn't always need one. A pure point guard? Not necessarily. And taking a top player out of the game? Maybe, if the situation demanded.
These, you see, are habits. The Heat played that way for months. So when Spoelstra went strategically small against Indiana and San Antonio, it was natural to the Heat players.
It also forced Vogel and Popovich to make split-second decisions that changed seasons. Vogel removed 7-2 center Roy Hibbert in the final seconds of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals for a more mobile Tyler Hansbrough. That helped leave the rim undefended for LeBron James to drive for a winning lay-up.
"Roy will be in the game in those situations," Vogel said the next day, after having a night to think about it. But it contributed to a loss to figure out that.
In Game 6 of the Finals, Popovich matched the Heat lineup by removing 6-11 Tim Duncan at the end. The Heat got two offensive rebounds on its final two possessions. Those helped win the game and the title.
Only 12 other NBA coaches have won two titles like Spoelstra. Only six have won three. And he's 42. So you can see why Van Gundy predicted where his career will end, even if everyone knows it's too premature to say so.
Longevity isn't a given for any coach. Nor is the opportunity to work with a singular talent like LeBron. But Spoelstra has the humility that will help. On the night the Heat won the title, Spoelstra celebrated with his family, including his sister and 6-year-old nephew.
They ended at a Denny's restaurant early in Coral Gables at 7 a.m. The nephew started basketball camp at the University of Miami at 8 a.m. Spoelstra took him there, watched him play.
All the world congratulated his team. He was congratulating his nephew for winning the camp's Hustle Award.