In the aftermath of losing the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, the Miami Heat face an offseason of critics questioning their toughness, intensity, and mental fortitude.
Perhaps the Heat aren't deserving of such scrutiny, but there are no shortage of critics who expect a full evaluation of head coach Erik Spoelstra and his team's collapse after taking a 2-1 series lead in Dallas.
Spoelstra will likely hear whispers that he is is partially to blame for Miami's inability to hold onto late-game leads will bear some responsibility for the lack of fourth-quarter production from LeBron James during the Finals.
Many who doubt the leadership of 40-year-old Spoelstra may call for coaching legend and current Heat general manager Pat Riley to take over coaching duties. Riley has won five championships as a coach, four with the Showtime Lakers in the 80's and one with the Heat over the Mavericks in 2006.
Simply stated, the Heat were outplayed by the Mavericks, and with three superstars, the burden often falls on the coach. So, this offseason the first of many questions the Heat will face is whether to replace the young, promising Spoelstra with the veteran, battle-tested Riley.
The decision is largely up to Riley, and he may decide that he wants to give the coaching gig another whirl. During the series in Miami, Riley was seen in the arena taking in the game.
The smart choice, however, is to leave Spoelstra on the bench. Riley was has proven to be invaluable coach, but to replace Spoelstra now would be simply unfair.
In their first year together, as Miami's Big Three struggled to fit their games to one another, Spoelstra managed to coach them to the NBA Finals. Other than Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and James, the Heat roster consisted mostly of players that would receive less than 10 minutes a game with other teams.
Still Spoelstra molded them into a defense that was tops in the NBA and worked around the roster's limitations to bring the Heat within two games of a championship.
Should Riley manage to tweak the roster to provide more depth and balance to a team that struggled without significant contributions from the center and point guard positions, Spoelstra can coach this team to a championship.
More than likely, Spoelstra will remain on the bench next year. He is one of the youngest and most promising coaches in the league, and it doesn't make sense for the Heat to consider his tenure a failed experiment just yet.
But Spoelstra will be working with little room for error. The Heat will need to win and win often during the regular season for Spoelstra to avoid calls to be fired, and he will be expected to lead the Heat to a title. Otherwise, expect renewed talk to have Riley take over.
As much as there is pressure for James to succeed next season, the same can be said for Spoelstra.