- Pat Riley
James "Pat" Riley (born March 20, 1945) is a former American National
Basketball Association player and coach and the current team president
of the Miami Heat. Widely regarded as one of the greatest NBA coaches
of all time, Riley has served as the head coach of five championship
teams and an assistant coach to another. He most recently won the 2006
NBA Championship with the Miami Heat. Prior to his tenure in Miami, he
served as head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York
Knicks. He also played for the Los Angeles Lakers' championship team in
1972, which brings his personal total to six NBA titles. He is known as
"Coach Slick" and "Mr. GQ".
Riley returned to the NBA in 1977 as a broadcaster for the Lakers.
During the 1979–80 season, when the team's head coach, Jack McKinney,
was injured during a near fatal bicycle accident, assistant coach Paul
Westhead took over the team's head coaching duties. Riley then moved
from the broadcast booth to the bench as one of Westhead's assistant
Six games into the 1981–82 season, Magic Johnson
said he wished to be traded because he was unhappy playing for
Westhead. Shortly afterward, Lakers' owner Jerry Buss fired Westhead.
At an ensuing press conference, with Jerry West at his side, Buss named
West head coach. West, however, balked, and Buss awkwardly tried to
name West as "offensive captain" and then named West and Riley as
co-coaches. West made it clear during the press conference that he
would only assist Riley, and that Riley was the head coach.
Thereafter, Riley was the interim head coach, until his status became
Riley led the Lakers to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. His
first title came in his first season, against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Both teams returned to the Finals the next year, but Riley's Lakers
were swept by the 76ers. The Lakers lost in the Finals again in 1984,
to the Boston Celtics in seven games. The Lakers earned Riley his
second NBA title in 1985 in a rematch of the previous year, as the
Lakers beat the Celtics in six games. The Lakers' four-year Western
Conference streak was broken the following year by the Houston Rockets.
In 1987, Riley coached a Lakers team that is
considered one of the best teams of all-time. With future Hall of
Famers Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, plus
important role players such as Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, A. C.
Green, Mychal Thompson, and Kurt Rambis, the Lakers finished 65-17 in
the regular season, third-best in team history. They met with similar
success in the playoffs, dispatching the Celtics in six games to win
Riley his third NBA title.
One of Riley's most famous moments came when he guaranteed the crowd a
repeat championship during the Lakers' championship parade in downtown
Los Angeles (he first made the guarantee during the post-victory locker
room celebration). While the 1988 Lakers did not produce as many
wins in the regular season as the 1987 Lakers, they still managed to
win the NBA title, becoming the first team in 19 years to repeat as
champions. The Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons in seven games in the
1988 NBA Finals, making good on Riley's promise. Riley's titles with
the Lakers make him the fifth man to play for an NBA Championship team
and later coach the same NBA team to a championship. The others are
Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K. C. Jones, and Billy Cunningham.
Although Riley would offer no further guarantees,
his Lakers embarked upon a quest to obtain a third consecutive
championship in 1989. Having successfully claimed a repeat championship
the year before, the term used for this new goal was a "three-peat"
championship, and indeed Riley, through his corporate entity, Riles
& Co., actually trademarked the phrase "three-peat" via the
Chicago Bulls accomplishing the feat twice, at the professional expense
of Riley himself). But ultimately, the Lakers were swept by the Pistons
in the 1989 NBA Finals.
Riley stepped down as coach of the Lakers after they lost to the
Phoenix Suns in the 1990 NBA playoffs, amid rumors of player
mistreatment and anger problems on his part. In spite of these rumors
and his resignation, he was named NBA Coach of the Year for the first
After stepping down as coach, Riley accepted a job
as a television commentator for NBC. However, this job only lasted one
year, as he became head coach of the New York Knicks in 1991. In 1993,
he led the Knicks to the best regular season record in team history and
received his second Coach of the Year award. Commentators especially
admired Riley's ability to work with the physical, deliberate Knicks,
considering that he was associated with the fast-paced Lakers in the
1980s. Riley returned to the NBA Finals in 1994, but his Knicks lost in
seven games to the Houston Rockets after being up 3–2 in the series,
and it denied New York City the distinction of both NBA and NHL titles
in the same year; Riley and his Knicks saw their home court host the
the New York Rangers first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years, as they
defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
During the 1994 Finals, Riley became the first (and to this date, the
only) coach in a Game 7 NBA Finals on two different teams, having been
with the Lakers in 1984 and 1988. However, he had the unfortunate
distinction of having become the first (and to this date, the only)
coach to lose a Game 7 NBA Finals on two different teams, having lost
to the Celtics in 1984. It also denied him the distinction from
becoming the first coach to win a Game 7 NBA Finals on two different
teams, having defeated the Pistons in 1988.
In 1995, Riley resigned from the Knicks. The move caused some
controversy, as the Heat were accused by the Knicks of tampering by
pursuing Riley while he still had a year remaining on his contract with
the Knicks. The matter was settled after the Heat sent their 1996
first round pick (which the Knicks would use to draft Walter McCarty)
and $1 million in cash to the Knicks on September 1, 1995. Riley's
coaching of the Heat to playoff contention would later make them bitter
rivals with his former team.
In 1995-1996, Miami was swept in the first round by Phil
Jackson-coached Chicago Bulls, who had completed the regular season
with a record 72 wins. This season was most notable for the ongoing
housecleaning that took place, with the arrival of building blocks
Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. The offseason would also bring them
Nets forward P.J. Brown and Suns swingman Dan Majerle.
In 1997, the Heat defeated his old team, the Knicks, in a physical
seven game series. Advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the
first time in franchise history, they proved no match for Jordan and
his Bulls. Riley was selected as Coach of the Year for the third time,
after leading Miami to a 61–21 regular season record, 1st in the
The Heat would compile consecutive seasons over
.600. However, the 1998, 1999, and 2000 playoffs would be
disappointments as they lost to the arch-rival Knicks; the first two in
the opening round and the latter in the second round. The 1999 Knicks
themselves reached the Finals.
Riley then entered the 2000 season armed for bear. In a shuffling of
the deck, Riley traded away Brown and Jamal Mashburn in exchange for
Eddie Jones in one trade and acquired Brian Grant in another, although
suffering a major setback after discovering Alonzo Mourning's kidney
condition. After finishing a respectable 50-32 in 2001 in spite of the
new nucleus and the loss of their star center, the Heat organized a
housecleaning after the season, as the Heat lost two of their best
players when guard Tim Hardaway was traded to the Dallas Mavericks and
Anthony Mason signed with the Milwaukee Bucks. In part because of these
departures, the Heat finished a disappointing 36–46 in 2002. Riley was
so disgusted with the Heat's performance that he declared he was about
to "fire himself."
Before the beginning of the 2003–2004 season, he did
step down as Heat coach, to fully dedicate his attention to his duties
as general manager. Longtime assistant Stan Van Gundy and rookie Dwyane
Wade, whom Riley drafted 5th overall, led the Heat back into the
playoffs with a 42–40 record after starting 0–7. Riley concentrated on
improving the team even further before the 2004–2005 season. One of his
biggest moves as full-time general manager was to trade Caron Butler,
Brian Grant, Lamar Odom and a first-round draft pick to the Lakers for
superstar Shaquille O'Neal. Head coach Van Gundy led the Heat to the
Eastern Conference finals during the 2005 playoffs, although they lost
to the Detroit Pistons after being up 3–2 in the series.
Riley resumed coaching the Heat on December 12, 2005, replacing Stan
Van Gundy after the Heat started the season with a disappointing 11–10
record. Van Gundy had resigned in order to "spend more time with [his]
family." Although Van Gundy maintained that his decision to resign was
his own, there has been speculation that he was pushed out by
The move came as a shock to the basketball
community, with some speculating that with Shaquille O'Neal returning
from injury, Dwyane Wade having his best season yet, and a high-caliber
roster including Gary Payton, Jason Williams and Antoine Walker, Riley
wanted to try to regain his former glory by coaching Miami to its first
NBA Championship. Riley's Heat team defeated his Los Angeles
Lakers-days nemesis, the Detroit Pistons, in the 2006 Eastern
Conference playoffs on June 2, 2006, making it the first time the Miami
Heat reached the finals. Riley's Heat squared off against the Dallas
Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals. Despite losing the first two games to
Dallas, the Heat rallied to win the final four games and their first
NBA Championship. It was Riley's fifth championship as a head coach.
Riley became the only NBA coach to take three different teams to the
NBA Finals and joined Alex Hannum and Phil Jackson as the only coaches
to coach two different teams to NBA titles. He also became the only
coach to twice replace a coach in mid-season and take that team to an
Citing "hip and knee problems," Riley took a leave of absence from
coaching from January 3, 2007 through February 19, 2007. Assistant
coach Ron Rothstein assumed interim duties.
On April 28, 2008, Riley announced that he would
step down as coach of the Miami Heat after the team finished with an
NBA-worst 15–67 record, the worst regular season output of Riley's
career. Former Heat assistant Erik Spoelstra was announced as his
replacement. Riley remains team president.