Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, a two-time NBA Champion, admits he wouldn't be the coach he is today if it wasn't for Knicks new head coach David Fizdale.
Fizdale, who was introduced as the 29th head coach of the Knicks on Tuesday, went from Atlanta to Miami in 2008 -- the same year Spoelstra entered his first season as the Heat's head coach after 11 years as an assistant. Though counterparts, Spoelstra admitted Fizdale would get under his skin, and question him constantly.
It was those fights that Spoelstra said ultimately made him a better coach.
"Fiz definitely made me better," Spoelstra told Newsday's Al Iannazzone. "We had some epic, legendary fights. We would challenge each other all the time. Fiz was not afraid to share his opinion. I wanted him to challenge me, question things, make me look at things in a different lens. And he constantly did that."
Those heated arguments needed other coaches to step in from time to time as well.
"Because of our friendship we had that type of understanding that we could push boundaries to get the best possible result that we were looking for or to get something different that neither one of us thought," Spoelstra added. "Some of those times were epic arguments. Other staff members would have to step in and thought that we were getting too personal about it. But neither one of us actually viewed it that way. It was more about trying to make each other better.
"Fiz made me a better coach. He thought the game differently than I did, from a different lens and I enjoyed coming to work every single day getting his perspective, which often made me look at things differently."
These "epic arguments" went on for eight years in Miami before Fizdale took over as head coach for the Grizzlies in 2016.
So, what can the Knicks expect from Fizdale in charge of their team now? Spoelstra says New York is getting one of the best in the business.
"You're going to have an incredibly passionate coach and teacher and motivator," Spoelstra said. "I think Fiz is one of the best basketball minds out there. He's extremely creative. He's got a terrific work ethic to match. He's a versatile coach. He can show that he's effective in all the different levels, player development, coaching, player management, X's and O's, all of those things.
"I just think he's very advanced. He's one of my closest friends, but I say all of that objectively. He's a very talented basketball mind and coach."
He is also a coach that gives his all to make his players better. Fizdale didn't waste any time in his introductory press conference to point out that he will hold his players accountable as well as shouting out Emmanuel Mudiay, saying "We're going to get you right." He not only wants to win games, but he also wants to help each of his players get better everyday.
Whether it is a superstar like LeBron James or working with a young point guard like he will with Frank Ntilikina, Spoelstra says Fizdale will make sure to tap his players' full potential.
"He just wants to help guys get better - and players sense that," Spoelstra said. "Regardless of how much experience you have, how much you've been in the league, whatever your background is, if players feel that they can trust you and you really are there just to help and you've proven you can help make them better, then players will be all-in with you.
"Fiz has that quality. He's real. He's authentic. He's not going to have a fake personality with one guy to win somebody over. He is who he is. Like or leave him, but he's there to help you. That's an endearing quality and players sense that right away. He'll do anything for staff members, for players and in turn you want to do anything for him."
That "no nonsense" attitude is what reportedly rubbed Grizzlies C Marc Gasol the wrong way, and eventually got him fired just 19 games into last season. But that is just one instance where Fizdale publicly didn't connect with a player.
Spoelstra has seen Fizdale's impact on his own squad, and so did Heat president Pat Riley. He spoke with Knicks exectuives about Fizdale, and once he gave his stamp of approval, Spoelstra said there was no need to conduct anymore interviews.
"After you talk to Pat you don't need to talk to me," he said. "After you talk to 'The Godfather' and he gives the go-ahead you don't need to talk to anybody else. Shut down all the other interviews. You don't have to call the references, any of that. You talked to the guy you needed to talk to."
So, Fizdale has been a part of championship teams, connected with numerous players around the league, and has some of the best minds in the game praising his coaching style. He is hoping to receive praise from the Knicks' fans this season as he looks to turn this storied franchise back around.
Spoelstra thinks he can do just that.