Disclaimer: what you are about to read may be startling if you haven’t followed the NBA for the last 20 years and disagreeable if you have absolutely no conscience.
For the sake of objectivity, let me first count off the reasons that I do like (read: don’t loathe with every fabric of my being) Patrick James Riley, American basketball coach extraordinaire.
That was easy…
1) He drives this hot purple Buick hotrod on the most crisp of Miami’s autumn nights, at which times he looks like a cross between Dick Tracy, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood and Tony Montana. In a stroke of luck, I pulled up next to him and his family on US 1 after a Heat game one evening and half expected him to gun the engine, chomp the toothpick in his cheek, and growl, “Go ahead. Make my day.” I mean, the guy is 65 and he still oozes cool.
2) Piggybacking on No. 1, you know without a doubt that Riles has had some wildly incendiary, did that really happen L.A. early mornings with Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Jack Nicholson… When you think “Showtime,” you think first of Magic’s big grin, second of Kareem’s goofy goggles, and third of coach’s perfectly coifed oil slick of a cut. That Riley’s hair beats out four and five (Laker Girls and AIDS, respectively) is a testament to its greatness.
3) I went to school with his daughter. She was pretty hot.
4) The man wins… He’s ruthless. Conniving, even. But he wins. He landed a title as a 26-year-old teammate of West, Wilt and Goodrich on the ’72 Lakers and has since made it his life’s work to collect bejeweled championship rings for his impeccably tanned fingers. He’s hoisted Larry O’Brien on six other occasion – once as an L.A. assistant and five times as the debonaire ego-stroker for the likes of Magic and Kareem, Shaq and Wade.
Now, lest I get carried away with niceties and impartiality, let’s talk about why I think Pat Riley is a total slimeball. We’ll start with yesterday’s breaking news that current Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s job is in jeopardy. And when I say “in jeopardy,” I of course mean, “there’s no way in the deepest, hottest parts of hell that Erik Spoelstra is coaching a team with Dwyane Wade on it next year.”
You’re effin’ crazy, Hilson. Riley told ESPN that he thought Spoelstra had “a great year.”
Yes. Yes, he did. And he also told ESPN, “I’ll do whatever is in the best interest of building the team here. Period. Whatever it takes, OK? I’ll let you fill in the blanks.”
Okay, coach, I’ll fill in the blanks.
Blank 1: “I will attempt to sell my children as part of a sign and trade with Cleveland if it means landing The King.”
Blank 2: “I have already FedExed three of my Lakers rings to Chris Bosh as incentives to come to South Beach.”
Blank 3 (more of a subtext, actually): “I brought Erik Spoelstra into this world and I will take him out of it should either of the first two blanks come to fruition. As a matter of fact, if at any time before my 70th birthday do I feel that my team has the slightest chance of winning an NBA title, I will march the 126 steps from the owner’s box to the bench faster than you can say ‘Stan Van Gundy.'”
Hey! Speaking of the former Heat coach/aspiring porn star, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Stan Van rolled his eyes and cursed the ground Riley walks on the second he heard about this interview. After all, it was Ron Jeremy Jr. who “retired” so he could “spend more time with his family.” Funny thing, though. Van Gundy apparently lost interest in his ho-hum wife and crappy kids after approximately 18 months so he could resume his career as one of the best coaches in the NBA.
Meanwhile, Riley commandeered a Shaq/Flash combo that had notched 59 wins the year before, and transformed a slow-starting 11-10 ’05 Heat squad into eventual champions. Of course, when the O’Neal-Wade relationship soured just two seasons later and Diesel had eaten himself out of town, Riles handed a 15-win squad of castoffs and Chris Quinns to former video assistant – you guessed it – Erik Spoelstra.
Riley is a glory-hounding opportunist who gets away with his ego and selfishness because he’s also really good at what he does. With his next un-retirement, he will join the hallowed ranks of Air Jordan, Brett Favre, a slew of heavyweight boxers, women and the rest of the legendary mind-changing flip-floppers whose words mean one thing until they mean something else.
I want you to think way, way back to the early ’90s. He bailed on an aging Lakers team, only to cash-in on Patrick Ewing’s prime roughly a year later (I hope you’re paying attention to these intervals).
So what does this all mean if you’re a diehard Heat fan like my best friend PK? It means next year will be feast or famine. No in-betweens. You’re either reloading with D-Wade, a couple big name free agents (one won’t sign without the other two), AND one of the five or so greatest coaches of all-time. If Wade doesn’t resign, you’re probably rolling out a starting five of Rudy Gay, David Lee, Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley and Lenny Kravitz. Riley’s committed for one more season. After that, he’ll bolt from the Triple A faster than a fat kid from P.E. class.
And should the latter scenario play out – and there’s a solid chance it does – make sure you have a pair of sunglasses handy when watching Heat games on Sun Sports. Because, really, all those empty, beaming orange seats are a serious threat to burn out your retinas…
Which brings me to my this-could-never-happen-in-a-million-years-but-if-it-does-you-heard-it-hear-first prediction: Pat Riley will be coaching Dwyane Wade, along with teammates Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, in Chicago within 24 months. The Bulls need a big name and Riles has a hankering to pace the sidelines again, but won’t do so unless he’s got a loaded team. I realize he’s still under contract. I also realize that, if Larry Brown is any indication, “under contract” means absolutely nothing.
Don’t put it past this guy. They call him “Coach Slick” for a reason. To close, I leave you with a pair of my favorite recent quotes from this potentially summer-long saga:
“Good old PRiles, D-Wade, Amare and Joe Johnson on the bench next year. Sounds like a dynasty to me.”
~ Delusional (read: typical) Heat Fan Philip Kates to Sports Casualties on Tuesday
“If I were to leave the team and go somewhere else in a year or two from now, if I got tired of reading books on the beach, excuse me, the Kindle, I might want to coach again. I don’t know. But don’t say that I won’t ever do that or that I can’t do it. If I say yes or no, then you get condemned for it.”
~ Future NBA Head Coach Pat Riley to ESPN on Tuesday
Cheers, Heat fans.