As Pat Riley approaches his 70th birthday, "The Godfather" sat down with Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick to discuss the events of 2014-15 and a reflection of his career as a NBA player, coach and team executive.
Everything you'd want to ask him was asked and Riley responded the only way he knows how: Brutal honesty. The full link of the article is at the bottom in case you'd like to read, but I'll be focusing on the topics he touched on that have affected the Heat this season.
Riley on if the past nine months have shaken him:
"No," Riley said. "Just disappointed. Disappointed for Erik [Spoelstra] and for Micky [Arison] and for our fans. Really disappointed."
On the Heat's secondary plan once LeBron James left:
"Obviously, the hit we took with LeBron leaving just crushed us," Riley said. "Everybody. It just did. But I thought getting Josh [McRoberts] and getting [Luol Deng], especially those two players, to go with Chris and Dwyane and Mario (Chalmers), that we could compete. And then, make the plan for 2016, even though I wasn't gonna wait if I could get a guy like Goran (Dragic)."
On the current cast making the playoffs despite being an injury riddled:
"We're in this race here, if somehow we could get into the playoffs and make something of it," Riley said. "But I do think we have enough, in that in any series with anybody in the East, with what's going on in the East, that you never know. And I love that."
On the NBA Draft:
"Lottery picks are living a life of misery. That season is miserable. And if you do three or four years in a row to get lottery picks, then I'm in an insane asylum. And the fans will be, too. So who wants to do that?"
On LeBron leaving:
"Generational teams stay together. The players stay together. They know what they have. They see what they've won. They see that there's going to be a little bit of an adjustment here, and they don't want to leave that. You may never get it again. "... what he had here, and what he had developed here, and what he could have developed over the next five or six years here, with the same team, could have been historic...." "
...You think Magic was going to leave Kareem? You think Kareem was going to leave Magic? You think Worthy was going to leave either one of those guys, or [Byron] Scott or [Michael] Cooper? No, they knew they had a chance to win every year. And this team had a chance every year. So that was shocking to me that it happened."
On how good the Heat would be if LeBron stayed:
"Well, I don't think there's any doubt that if he stayed here, we would be the best team in the East, with what I had planned." "I don't think there's any doubt... But he didn't. So you'll never know."
On Hassan Whiteside:
"Everybody knew who he was; it's just we were the first ones to say yes"
On Goran Dragic:
Riley preferred "to get one step ahead of the posse with a great point guard."
On the next big move:
"The next move is 2016. I think this team in the next couple of years can get back to being the best team in the Eastern Conference."
On Chris Bosh:
"When Earvin went down, we thought it was the worst," Riley said. "When Zo went down, we thought it was the worst. When Chris, you think it's the worst....So it really affects you."
Pat Riley talking about how Pat Riley is today:
"I'm not driven like I used to be," Riley said. "But I do want this organization to stay what it is. As long as it's on my sort of watch here, I still want to bring great success for Micky and for the fans. And I feel really bad right now, where we are, versus where we could be."
On what he would do if he won one more title:
"If we ever get to that point again when I'm still here, I will walk right out of the arena," Riley said, smiling. "Chris and I will just walk out of the arena. We will get in a car, we will go to the airport and we will go!"
So as you can see, Riley is still rightfully hurt about the departure of the best player in the NBA, but refuses to walk around with his head low about it. Instead he has gone out and aggressively looked for replacements via trades (Dragic) or finds (Whiteside.) While the current season feels wasted because this team will never realize it's full potential, he believes it would speak volumes if this cast can still make the playoffs despite it's disadvantages.
He sees Miami's potential to be one of the best teams in the NBA when cohesive and healthy, but still feels as if they are one piece away from consistent title contention for years to come. He plans on adding that piece in 2016 when the cap increases by $20 million.
If all goes well, Riley gets closer and closer to the light at the end of his own tunnel, but it would be ideal if that light had a Larry O' Brein trophy with it. My prediction on his retirement would be after the 2016-17 season no matter what the result is. He's able to close out his career because he will actually be leaving a front office of people that remind him..of himself in different ways.
As much as everyone watching and rooting for the team is frustrated this season, Riley is even more frustrated because of his position. But like he's been all his life, he is a fighter and thrives in the underdog role. That's why the future is bright even though the present may be dim.
You can and should definitely read the full article here.