Aug 14, 2013
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Butch Jones termed the 11th day of fall camp as "Championship Wednesday." But that title wasn't just a motivational tagline or a phrase of the day.
Jones welcomed friend and NBA Championship-winning coach Erik Spoelstra to the morning session of practice, where he delivered a short speech to the team at the conclusion of the workout.
Spoelstra, who led the Miami Heat to its second-consecutive NBA title this season in his fifth season on the bench, will spend the day with the team, including an afternoon presentation on teambuilding and competing at a championship level.
"Anytime you can bring in an individual like Erik Spoelstra, the stature that he brings to come in and spend an entire day with your football team means everything," Jones said after the morning session. "First class individual, high character, loves college football and he is a winner. He has back to back NBA world championships. He is going to have a great message for a team."
Senior defensive lineman>Daniel McCullers said that having an NBA coach on campus was big, but having the opportunity to hear from a champion on how to get to that level was even bigger.
"It's a big thing for us," McCullers said. "We're going to take advantage of it however we can."
Wide receiver>Jason Croom was excited about the tine having Spoelstra on campus set.
"It's nice to have winners around here because that's what's about to happen here," Croom said of Jones creating a championship culture. "Having Spoelstra here is one of the examples."
Jones and Spoelstra met through their agent and formed a bond over shared coaching values. While at Cincinnati, Jones was courtside for the clinching fifth game of the 2012 NBA Finals, as Spoelstra claimed his first championship as a head coach.
With the NBA Title on the line in a deciding game seven this season, Jones was again courtside in Miami. And again, he was present in a champaign-soaked locker room as Spoelstra and the Heat basked in the glory of back-to-back championships. During the celebration, Jones and Spoelstra snapped a picture with the Larry O'Brien trophy, which Jones has up in his office at Tennessee.
The photo opp impressed junior running back>Devrin Young.
"I see it as bragging rights," Young said. "My coach is cooler than yours."
Though most think of the Heat's recent success under Spoelstra, he faced a sizable rebuilding project when he took over in Miami. Jones said the project Spoelstra inherited mirrors his own and that the experiences he can share with the team will be invaluable.
"Prior to his first year at the Miami Heat they had won 15 games," Jones said. "He is going to talk about the building process and building it brick by brick and that culture. Building that structure that it takes to be successful like they have in Miami."
According to McCullers, Tennessee left an impression on Spoelstra as well.
"He said the facilities were crazy," McCullers said summarizing the post-practice comments. "Like nothing he's ever seen before."