Pat Riley's comments earlier this week have caused a bit of a stir not just in South Florida but all around the NBA. With Pat saying that he will do whatever is necessary in order to build a dynasty in Miami, suddenly the stakes are even higher for other NBA teams when attempting to sign one of the many big-name free agents this summer. Miami is now the most attractive destination for pretty much any player looking to re-locate... assuming of course that Dwyane Wade stays put (which he WILL). Before we go any further, here is the quote from Pat Riley that has created so much of a stir:
"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."
"If some free agent were to say, 'I will come here but you must do this,' well, hell, if that happens that day, then I might have to give it some thought."
Now that Riley put the thought in everyone's head that he could potentially come back to the Heat bench in order to lead the franchise to another championship or two (or three...), teams without a coach who are looking to be big spenders (Nets, Bulls, etc) have suddenly been put into a very tough spot. Do they need to have a big-name coach on the payroll to entice the Stoudemire's, the James' and the Bosh's to come play in their city? Just the fact that its in question is enough to cause several GM's to lose even more sleep then they already were.
Now the Heat already has a coach in place in Erik Spoelstra, and while statistically he's done a good job there has been a lot of criticism directed at him for his play calling and personnel moves. Still, in his first two seasons as an NBA head coach, Spoelstra has won 90 games and led his team to the playoffs both years. Riley, on the other hand, won 108 games in his first two seasons as a head coach, making it to the NBA Finals both years and winning a title in one of them.
Do I think that Riley will be coaching the Heat next season? I think that if the free agents Miami want to sign say ‘I want to play for Pat Riley' then hell yeah he'll be coaching. I'm sure that Riley remembers back in 2006 how the team he put together to win a title was playing so poorly that he had to take over the coaching duties. What ended up happening...? He led them to that title.
The coach he replaced back then was Stan Van Gundy. Stan has been through a similar ride as Spoelstra is about to go through, and earlier this week said that he feels for the current Heat coach. Said Stan:
"I feel bad for Erik. I know what will happen now: an offseason of speculation on whether or not Pat will coach. It makes it tough on him. So I feel bad for him."
Regardless of how you feel towards Spo, you have to agree with San Van. Sure, he's made his share of mistakes...but what NBA coach hasn't? He's worked his ass off for the past two years as the head coach of the Heat, but he has been putting in hour after hour of hard work as part of the Miami Heat coaching staff since he was brought on board back in 1995 as the team's video coordinator. But the job he has done has been rendered irrelevant right now. The goal is to piece together a roster that compliments Dwyane Wade and his unique and amazing skill set, then take that roster and turn it into a title contender for years to come.
Pat Riley has been around this franchise for over 15 years now and since the very beginning he's shown that he knows how to build a winner. Within months of his arrival in Miami he overhauled the roster and brought in Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. They became the core of a Heat team that was pretty amazing for half of a decade.
A few years later Riley started the process over and again built the team up from relative nothingness, this time molding the roster into an NBA champion. His track record and decision-making cannot be questioned. But now he has the task of not only keeping Dwyane Wade in a Heat uniform, but putting the pieces around him that will have the Heat contending every season for the Larry O'Brien trophy. Whether or not he does that as the Heat's head coach will be decided in the coming months, but as Riley said...he's willing to do "whatever it takes" to get the Heat back on top. We're just going to have to wait and see what that means...
UPDATE: Here are the two audio clips of Pat Riley talking about a possible return to coaching.