If there was any indication that Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was taking their NBA Finals loss especially hard, it might have been noticeable on Tuesday where the team met up for their exit interviews and to clean out their lockers.
But the experienced coach wasn't showing any of that at the AmericanAirlines Arena when he met with the media for the final time this season. The way he puts it, there isn't too much time to dwell on their bitter loss anyway.
"Right now, I came in today and my focus has been first on the team meeting we're about to have but secondly to fast-track on the draft, which is coming up right around the corner," Spoelstra pointed out. "So we have to prepare for that."
Asked to reflect on the NBA Finals, Spoelstra took his usual disciplined approach to the heartbreaking loss.
"We talked a little bit about it the other night but there's not a whole lot you can say that's going to alleviate some of the pain and frustration that we're all feeling right now. We understand why our team was built. There's high expectations and with that, when you don't get to where you want to go, sometimes there's that pain that's deep. That's what happens in competition.
"With all that said, you also have to try to keep some perspective about it. There's 400+ players and 28 teams that didn't have an opportunity to play for it in that last round. There were 200+ players and 14 teams that had their meeting that I'm about to have two months ago. There are a lot of players, good players, that have never had an opportunity to play for a ring much less have a ring to even feel what a Finals experience feels like. So you do have to keep some perspective on that and you can't be so jaded or even entitled to think that this is just going to happen every single year."
The coach still considers the season a success even if they finished short of their goal. His building blocks for a championship team have proven themselves over time and if there's room for improvement after this season then so be it.
"One of the toughest things to ever do in life is to collaborate and to have a true trust, a sacrifice and a working collaboration toward a common goal and then to be able to come that close and to put yourselves out there, even if you don't make it, it's a heck of an accomplishment for the group in that locker room," remarked Spo. "We will have perspective about it. It might not be today, but at some point - hopefully this summer - we'll all be able to step back and say that it was a great year in many regards. We didn't accomplish our ultimate goal but we'll learn from it."
Which Heat team actually shows up for training camp is another story altogether. In addition to learning from this season's failures, the front office must practically build a new team from scratch, with Norris Cole the sole Heat player currently under contract for next season.
"We feel we have a lot to offer here as a first-class championship organization that's proven itself," explained Spoelstra, confident in his organization's message. "Our players know what we're about and they know about the Heat family that we've been together through everything. So this will be something that we'll deal with in a couple of weeks but we've been through it before so we'll see what happens."
Asked about the maintenance program for Dwyane Wade this season and how the Heat had to overcome it, Spoelstra refused to cite that as a reason why his team fell short of expectations.
"We don't want to make any excuses for the regular season," he said. "You have to also credit sometimes the competition. When you're playing at the top and everyone goes into the offseason and their ultimate goal is to take you down, the competition will get better and it will get much more specific. That's part of what we've probably seen the last couple of years in terms of how teams are attacking us. It will be very similar to this year, everybody will be gearing up to try to beat the San Antonio-style of basketball.
"Each season is a different challenge," he continued. "Teams have to overcome and there a lot of teams that deal with injuries throughout the course of a whole season and you have to be able to figure it out. We did for the most part until we got to that last round and we faced a team that was playing at a much higher level of basketball then we were. I don't know at this point if a lot of those things were the reason why (the Heat lost) but I think ultimately the high level of basketball that San Antonio was playing was the overwhelming reason."