Sports Illustrated senior writer Chris Herring released his book Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks Tuesday. And the New York Times published an excerpt that details Pat Riley’s 1995 move from the Knicks to the Miami Heat, a franchise that had its inaugural season in the 1988-89 year.
The excerpt opens with a vignette of Riley and veteran guard Doc Rivers — who is now the coach of the Philadelphia 76ers — “loudly trading expletives.” It soon moves to a discussion Riley had with a longtime friend Dick Butera. The coach told his friend, “I don’t know if this is going to work out,” referring to the situation with the Knicks.
Butera countered that he and some of his friends planned to try to purchase an ownership stake in the Heat.
In February 1995, Herring writes, Butera and Micky Arison had a series of calls. And on Feb. 16, 1995, Arison arrived at Miami Arena for the Knicks’ shootaround. Arison pulled Riley aside, asking to speak for a few minutes. Riley nodded, and the two began a conversation that continued after the Knicks lost to the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs.
Later, Butera and Riley compiled a list of asks in a memo that seems straight out of the HBO show Succession.
Butera and Riley soon compiled a list of asks in a four-page, 14-point memo. Riley wanted an immediate 10 percent ownership of the team and another 10 percent share over the course of his deal. He also wanted Arison to loan him money to pay taxes on the initial 10 percent stake.
He also wanted complete control over Miami’s basketball operations, and to be named the team president. Riley wanted Arison to purchase his sprawling homes near Los Angeles and New York City. He wanted a limo service to and from games in Miami. He wanted credit cards and a $300 per diem.
And the rest, as they say, is history.