An original member of the Miami Heat in 1988, Tony Fiorentino was a handful of fresh employees to join the new staff, be it on the court or in the executive office. He joined Ron Rothstein in Miami, the first head coach who had made the leap from essentially a high school world, to scouting in the NBA and later as an Assistant’s job with the Hawks from 1983 – ’86. (Tony Fiorentino – left below)
Once a staff of three, Miami now has some 300 employees on its payroll. So erupted the NBA overall, the last 35 years.
Tony accepted Rothstein’s offer of an assistant’s job, having worked with him in Westchester County, just outside New York City. If there was more to do, Tony worked in the summer. He’ll do it with alacrity. Fiorentino served as a scout for the club and in the summer, he engaged kids in camps around the community. From Dade through Palm Beach, Tony coached budding athletes. It appeared to the naked eye that he was beloved by all. As a scout, he was pleased to diagram plays or explain them for anyone who asked, whether learning about an upcoming opponent, drawing schemes, or assessing a potential pro. A wonderfully humble an funny man, who can spit out quips in rapid succession.
- Tony has been around since the NBA ball was tipped for the first time; 3 league championships since; Star like Shaq. LeBron, Wade, Zo and more. Now it’s Jimmy Butler. They’re now gunning for their 4th championship.
- Tony’s fulltime TV career with the Heat started in 2004, sitting next to veteran Eric Reid, the Heat’s lead play-by-player who too began before the ball was tipped in 1988. In 2017, the Heat announced that Fiorentino would call his 14th and final season as the television analyst. When he signed off, fans were unhappy. On air, he never sounded contrived. Rothstein.
- Rothstein and Fiorentino also coached the Miami Sol of the WNBA.
- He still does community work for the team, doing so with natural enthusiasm, watching games assiduously. He can swing colleagues’ moods in a heartbeat and pull them out of their doldrums if required. He brings a smile to every occasion.
- Yesterday, he told me about this Heat-Nuggets series and he shared some thoughts of interest.
- He said Erik Spoelstra is trusted and committed. They were both on Pat Riley’s coaching staff. “He can coach a big team or a club he’s developing.”
- Tony himself enjoyed his dozen years or so as an assistant on the bench. He worked with Rothstein, Kevin Loughery, Alvin Gentry and of course Pat Riley. “Erik Spoelstra and I have an excellent chemistry. When I was calling the games on TV, Spoelstra didn’t hide any information. He’s very smart.”
- “Eric Reed and I would be complimented by coaches who watched our work as well as others. Even the refs were kind to us!,” he chuckles.” At 73, he adds that “I’ve had a great ride and I’m still loving it.”
THE DENVER SERIES
- I asked what will it take for the Heat to win. Slight pause: “You have to make shots! We’re watching some of the best big men arguably, Nikola Jokić of Denver (6′ 11″) and Bam Adebayo (6′ 9″) of the Heat. Miami has been fortunate to get contributions from individuals like Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent. No surprise, it’s needed every night. It’s obviously helped and taken Miami to this point.”
- Fiorentino pointed out the confidence of Spoelstra and key player, Jimmy Butler. “They couldn’t wait to get back on the plane and back to Boston after blowing a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.”
- How do the Heat stop the big man? “I’m sure the coaches have talked about the effectiveness of getting it done. They’re hoping to limit his pick spots and more. No secret. When to double him and when to play zone? No one can singly solve Jokić.“
- “Jokić and Jimmy are unique. It’s W first, Some guys look at the the stat sheet,” Tony says “These guys just want to win.”
- “Believe me. the Heat coaches will have assessed the teams’ sizes, lengths and wingspan. How they’ll play the big man on the pick ‘n roll?” The coaching staff will be prepared for every potential event.
- As we wound down our conversation, Tony told me that that when he watched Spoelstra early in his career, he said publicly, including on the Heat game-casts that Erik is a future Hall of Famer. “Many ignored what I was saying. The basketball public is seeing it for itself now.”
Tonight, they’ll need a stop in Denver.