Now More Than Ever, HEAT Culture is Thriving in Sioux Falls

By Matt Dykstra | May 28, 2020

There are many different working definitions of what HEAT Culture means depending upon who you ask. You might not be able to put it into words, but you know it when you see it or experience it. It’s just…different.

“It’s a culture of service,” said Skyforce Head Coach Eric Glass, who has now been a part of the HEAT organization for the past 10 seasons. “It’s a culture of accountability. It’s a culture of growth. It means coming into an environment where there’s a standard of excellence that has been set every day. It’s a place where, if a player wants to become the best version of himself, he has everything offered to him to be able to do that.”

“To me, Miami HEAT Culture means bringing a hard-word mentality to everything we do, whether people are watching or not,” said Skyforce General Manager and HEAT Director of Player Personnel Eric Amsler. “It means being high-character individuals in all facets of our lives, both on and off the court. That said, when a team steps onto the court to play us, they best know we mean business between those lines.”

The transcendence of HEAT Culture from the NBA to the G League is something that the Sioux Falls Skyforce take pride in, and something that the Miami HEAT have helped to cultivate in South Dakota over the years. This season in particular, Coach Glass made it clear from the outset that he would be bringing some of that culture and grit to his Skyforce team.

Skyforce Head Coach Eric Glass instructs his team in the huddle. (Photo by Dave Eggen/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s easy to find examples of this at the NBA level. Pillars of excellence. HEAT players and staff who have developed and created HEAT Culture over the years. Names like HEAT President Pat Riley, HEAT Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, past stars like Dwyane Wade, and current players like Udonis Haslem, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo. Coach Glass had the chance to work closely with all of those people and more during his time with the HEAT, and now was in charge of instilling that work ethic into his own players.

So… Who exemplified HEAT Culture the best this season in Sioux Falls? Coach Glass told fans to look no further than a pair of veterans who served as consistent pillars to lean on this season for the Force.

“Jack and Reed,” said Glass. “They were two of the biggest leaders on our team and they embody everything we stand for as an organization. To their credit, most of this culture that we preach, they already possess. It was a very seamless buy-in and it helped them to be leaders for others.”

NBA veteran Jarrett Jack could have easily come to Sioux Falls and focused on his own development and return to the league’s highest level. Instead, he embraced his role as a member of the Skyforce and sought to make the young players around him better as well. It made all the difference this season.

“I love being able to mentor our guys,” said Jack. “I love sharing the game that I’ve been able to be a part of over the years. When I came into the NBA as a rookie, I played on the youngest team in the league, so everyone was essentially the same age. We had to learn and navigate on our own.”

Skyforce guard Jarrett Jack addresses his team during a timeout against the Texas Legends. (Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images)

HEAT Culture is one of sacrifice and leadership. Jack seamlessly amplified those traits as he stepped into the starting point guard role for the Skyforce early in the season, and he knew how important his impact would be on those around him.

“I wish [early in my career] I had someone to tell me some things I might call mistakes, or the way I went about things,” said Jack. “I feel like that’s kind of my job in the situation I’m in now, to help and guide the younger guys. Advice like that is crucial.”

“Having somebody with 13 years of NBA experience—he’s seen everything, 10 times over,” said Coach Glass. “He’s constantly preaching and telling guys stories. He’s an amazing professional and perfect example for our guys. For these young guys, it takes a lot of time for things to seep in. Him being here every single day and constantly being that leader for us really helps.”

Jack, who was averaging 15.6 points, 5.1 assists and 3.2 rebounds in just 24.5 minutes per game this season, was playing his best basketball as the G League rightfully decided to suspend play. He was the head of the snake for a team that boasted the second-best record in the league since the new year began.

Jarrett Jack converses with fellow guard Daryl Macon. (Photo by Dave Eggen/NBAE via Getty Images)

“It’s very calming to have him out there,” said Glass. “We know he can get us organized. If he ever has a play call, I’ll wave off mine because I trust him. He knows what we can get into. He just gives us a complete calming presence out there which is critical.”

Reed, like Jack, quickly became someone Coach Glass could rely on both on and off the court. His individual game stats didn’t necessarily jump off the page this season, but he was the glue that held a young Skyforce team together through injuries, tough road stretches, and roster turnover. In doing so, he became just the seventh player in Skyforce franchise history to tally 500 points, 250 rebounds and 150 assists in a season, and as we know, the season wasn’t finished.

“[Davon] Reed was our rock from day one,” said Glass. He brought a consistency every day and our team needed that. He was the same guy no matter what was going on. There were no ups and downs with him, and that’s very difficult to do in our sport.

“He was someone we could count on each and every day. Guys looked at him like an uncle or big brother because of those qualities, even though he was about the same age as most of the guys in our locker room.”

Davon Reed signs autographs for young Skyforce fans before a home game. (Photo by Dave Eggen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Whether it comes from players like Jarrett Jack and Davon Reed, or from personnel like Head Coach Eric Glass or General Manager Eric Amsler, the Miami HEAT Culture has become a staple within the Skyforce organization now more than ever. However, it remains something that has been growing for years, even before the HEAT-Skyforce partnership began.

“When we talk about the HEAT we talk about words like family, and we mean it,” said Miami HEAT Vice President Andy Elisburg. “It’s a family. It’s something that becomes part of you. The Skyforce have created that as well. Somethings things go well and sometimes they don’t, but the Skyforce has found a way to make the franchise something special. It’s incredible what the Heineman family has done to this point, and we’re very proud to be partners with the Skyforce going forward.”

In many ways, what the Heineman family was able to create in Sioux Falls long before the HEAT affiliation began, was very similar to what we know as HEAT Culture today. It’s something that drew the two organizations together and has helped the two teams develop one of the strongest NBA-to-affiliate partnerships in the league.

HEAT Culture is just different. You know it when you see it, and you can see it in Sioux Falls.

Long-time Skyforce Owner Greg Heineman alongside son, Owner/President Mike Heineman.