Norris Cole recalls when Pat Riley stopped entire practice to defend Erik Spoelstra during Big 3 era

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Former NBA point guard and champion Norris Cole recently recalled a time when Miami Heat president Pat Riley defended head coach Erik Spoelstra.

“Even the Big 3 was there,” Cole said. “They was having meetings with Spo all the time and all that. Pat blew his big — when he blow the whistle, everybody be quiet. I ain’t never seen no stuff like this ever. Aye no listen, I thought — I never seen nothin’ like this before in my life. Coach Spo got the whistle. Spo blew the whistle. We was gettin’ ready for practice. He walked out that office and [whistle noises]. Even Spo jumped and turned around, and he said, ‘Everybody on the wall, coaches, everybody.’ We all sat on the wall and sat down, and he said, ‘There’s no more meetings. He’s gon’ be the coach. He ain’t goin nowhere. I’ll fall on my sword before he go anywhere. I’ll leave before he leave.'”

It has been quite some time since Cole last played in the NBA. His last season in the league came during the 2016-17 season when he logged 13 games with the Oklahoma City Thunder — who had recently lost Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors in free agency and were led by Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo — during the regular season.

Cole’s NBA career lasted six seasons, from the 2011-12 season through the 2016-17 season. He spent the lion’s share of his career with the storied Heat franchise, seeing as how he spent his first three-plus seasons with Miami.

The point guard won a title with the Heat in each of his first two seasons with the team. Despite being a youngster, Cole served as an important rotation player for the Heat during their title runs. He appeared in 65 games with Miami during his rookie season and 80 during his sophomore season.

But midway through the 2014-15 season, the Heat traded Cole to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a three-team deal that landed Miami star point guard Goran Dragic.

Dragic went on to have a long and successful stint with the Heat. He spent six-plus seasons with Miami, and during that span, he earned one All-Star nod and helped lead the team to an NBA Finals appearance in 2020.

Following the end of the 2020-21 season, the Heat traded Dragic along with Precious Achiuwa to the Toronto Raptors in a sign-and-trade deal that brought Kyle Lowry to the team. Lowry is still a member of the Heat and in his third season with the franchise.

Riley was right to have such a strong belief in Spoelstra’s coaching ability. After all, Spoelstra has coached the Heat to six NBA Finals appearances and two titles.

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Jesse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA.