MEMPHIS — Udonis Haslem vowed that even in retirement he would remain a presence around the Miami Heat.
That presence now will come in the team’s front office, in a hybrid role that will allow him to continue to work as a mentor with the team’s players, including aiding coach Erik Spoelstra.
Having retired in the wake of the NBA Finals after spending his entire 20-season NBA career with the team, Haslem, 43, on Tuesday was named the Heat’s vice president of basketball development.
In the newly-created role, Haslem’s responsibilities will include being a source to the coaching staff, mentoring both Heat and G League Sioux Falls Skyforce players, as well as representing the organization in the community and in business endeavors.
Haslem joins Alonzo Mourning, Shane Battier, Caron Butler, Malik Allen, Chris Quinn, Wayne Ellington, Keith Askins and Glen Rice as former Heat players working with the team.
“Born and raised in Miami, UD has been an integral part of the success of the HEAT for 20 years,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “It’s great that he has chosen to continue to build on his incredible legacy here in Miami, where he belongs.”
Haslem has stressed that with his outside philanthropic and business ventures, that he did not want to be tied down to a coaching role. He has, however, continually pushed for a Heat ownership stake.
Haslem recently had entered the broadcast realm, working for both CBS Sports HQ and Turner Broadcasting.
Haslem had served as Heat captain for his final 16 seasons, with protege Bam Adebayo for the first time assuming that role this season.
The Heat are expected to retire Haslem’s No. 40 jersey later this season, having already feted him before his final regular-season game last season.
He made clear then that he wasn’t going anywhere.
“This is a forever thing,” the Miami native and Southwest Ranches resident, said. “There’s too much love here. There’s too many sacrifices. There’s too much success.”
Spoelstra said he has embraced Haslem remaining a presence, calling him a symbol of Heat culture.
“If you tried to explain our culture, you’d just show highlights of UD,” Spoelstra said, “not only in games, but if you could find just footage of him on the practice court, or of mentoring when no one else is in the gym, but somebody needs to do extra conditioning. And UD, who has proven everything in this game, is running with a young player, just to show them support.”
Spoelstra said recently that the anticipation was of ongoing relationship, speaking at the time as Haslem was drilling with Heat players.
“I love it,” Spoelstra said. “UD is going to be around and he’s going to serve a lot of different capacities for our organization — downstairs and upstairs. But I love having him in the gym, I love having him in the locker room. I love having him in any kind of role.
“We’re going to figure this out. It’s an open canvas. He doesn’t want to be called a coach. I don’t care what we call him, I just want him around. We’ll figure out what that’s going to look like. But I love when he’s around in a practice or shootaround, all those things.”
Adebayo said it only made sense to keep Haslem around.
“I feel like we’re keeping him young, we’re keeping him engaged,” Adebayo said. “We’re keeping his mind working, because you know he’s got to have something to think about other than his kids, dogs and family. It gives him something to do, but he also gets to come in here, talk to the young guys, share his story, share his mentality. It’s still good to have him around.”
Haslem finished his career as the franchise’s all-time leader in offensive, defensive and total rebounds, becoming the only undrafted player in NBA history to become their team’s all-time rebound leader. His 5,791 rebounds are the fourth-most among undrafted players in the modern draft era (starting in 1966), trailing only Moses Malone, Ben Wallace and Brad Miller.
In addition to being Miami’s all-time rebounding leader, Haslem ranks on the franhise list second in games played, second in starts, second in minutes, fifth in field goals made, fifth in double-doubles, seventh in points, ninth in field goal percentage, 10th in blocks and 11th in steals.
Additionally, Haslem’s 147 postseason appearances are the most by an undrafted player in league history, winning NBA championships with the Heat in 2006, 2012 and 2013.