Erik Spoelstra in talks with Pacquiao
MIAMI -- Erik Spoelstra crossed off one huge item on his to-do list when NBA free agency delivered the opportunity to coach LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Now, the Miami Heat coach is closing in on another career aspiration: To go toe-to-toe with boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.
No, not in the ring. On the hardwood.
Spoelstra said Monday he is finalizing an agreement with the world's top pound-for-pound fighter to host a series of clinics in the Philippines next summer to promote sports and healthy lifestyles for youth in that country. Details are still in the works, but Spoelstra said the clinics would likely be held in Pacquiao's hometown of Kibawe, Bukidnon.
"Manny's people actually got back to us the other day and said he was really interested in getting together to do something like this," Spoelstra told ESPN.com after the Heat's practice on Monday in preparation for Tuesday's home game against the Utah Jazz. "It's for a good cause, and we're really excited about the chance to do it."
Spoelstra has traveled with members of the Heat's coaching staff to the Philippines, his mother's native country, the past two NBA offseasons to conduct basketball clinics. He is the first Asian/Filipino-American coach in any of the major American sports leagues and has been an avid fan of Pacquiao, who has reached iconic status in that country because of his victories in the boxing and political rings.
Pacquiao, who has won world boxing titles in seven divisions, was elected earlier this year to a congressional seat in the Philippines. Both Spoelstra and Pacquiao have challenges ahead this week. After facing the Jazz, the Heat continues a six-game home stand by looking to avenge their season-opening loss to Boston on Thursday.
Miami also plays the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, which is the same night Pacquiao returns to the ring to fight Antonio Margarito at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas for the World Boxing Council's super welterweight title.
As soon as the Heat's game ends against Toronto, it won't be difficult to find Spoelstra. Two of Pacquiao's most recent fights have been on nights when the Heat had games. But Spoelstra has worked around that scheduling conflict without missing too many punches.
"After our game, I'm sure I'll find some way to watch it," Spoelstra said.
During the Heat's preseason media day on Sept. 27, Spoelstra said he met Pacquiao for the first time during last summer's trip to the Philippines and learned that his boxing hero was a Boston Celtics fan. "But we'll have to change that," Spoelstra said at the time.
Michael Wallace is an NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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