The career path of Milwaukee Bucks coach Jim Boylan and that of the Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra couldn't be any more different. Where the 57-year-old Boylan has been everywhere from Switzerland to the NCAA, Spoelstra's coaching career began in the NBA and with the same franchise he coaches today.
Boylan was a player-coach in Europe, an assistant at Michigan State and a head coach at the University of New Hampshire before becoming a video coordinator and eventually an NBA assistant.
In the league, Boylan has often been a cleanup man of sorts. A longtime lead assistant, he took over in January for departed Bucks coach Scott Skiles in just the second of his NBA head coaching tenures. Both of Boylan's head coaching terms were interim positions, and both times he succeeded Skiles. In his first opportunity, he took over a Bulls team that was far from the playoffs in the 2007-08 season, but Chicago did not retain him.
Meanwhile, Spoelstra jumped into the league three years out of college in 1995 as a video coordinator with the Heat, and with well-received work ethic worked his way up the ladder.
Winning the trust and admiration of Heat executive Pat Riley as a clever tactician, the 42 year old inherited the head coaching job and led Miami to two first round appearances in his first two seasons. In 2009, the Heat fell to the Atlanta Hawks in seven games, and the next season Miami lost to the Boston Celtics in a five-game series. After the Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to team with Dwyane Wade, Spoelstra has been received by the star-laden roster well.
Miami, of course, made the NBA Finals in the last two seasons and won the 2012 title.
Comparing and contrasting
The career trajectories of the Heat and Bucks coaches in a way tells the story of their styles.
Spoelstra's renowned video-room obsession appears in the Heat's ultra-efficient offense. Though it obviously helps that James is the focal point as a playmaker in his offense, Spoelstra's squad is tops in the league in offensive rating, according to the NBA stats tool, and one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league.
Miami is a top-five scoring team despite being in the bottom third of the league in pace. That has allowed them to control games from a defensive standpoint, where they are also in the top 10. Miami will pick and choose when to strike opponents with flurries of defensive stops, often at James' discretion. And that is where Spoelstra's teams show his tricky balance of strategy and freedom given to his stars.
Boylan, like his predecessor, Skiles, is a defensive-minded coach. Since Skiles' departure, the Bucks have slipped from eighth in defensive rating to 12th while the offense has been slightly less apprehensive thanks to a faster tempo.
Still, Milwaukee isn't efficient on offense with a trigger-happy backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis -- it doesn't help that duo is undersized from a defensive standpoint to boot. Still, the undersized interior of Larry Sanders has greatly helped the Bucks' identity, as has Boylan's confidence in forward Ersan Ilyasova, who has shined since the coaching change.