Tuesday , Apr , 29 , 2008 Christopher Sells

Pat Riley Quits: Third Time’s a Charm?

Pat Riley Quits: Third Time's a Charm?

When the going gets tough, the tough quit coaching and go back to their front office jobs. 

Pat Riley has done it again. He has decided that the Heat are better off with him off the sidelines and making decisions off the court. Perhaps not coincidentally, this has happened as the team’s future is uncertain. Funny how Riles seems to always step away for the lean times. 

Injuries, age and trades all contributed to Miami’s NBA-worst 15-67 record this season. Shaq was traded away for Shawn Marion and Dwyane Wade seemed to spend more time in cell phone commercials than he did in uniform. Ricky Davis (!) was the team’s most reliable player. Things were not going well for this team at all. 

With expiring contracts and possible retirements and questions about who will recover from injury, it’s impossible to predict what Miami will be able to do next season. They will have a top four pick in June’s draft, but rookies—even the studs in this year’s class—are not guaranteed to produce right away. Lots of things are up in the air. 

Which meant, of course, that Riley was due to hand this job off to someone else. 

No one doubts Riley’s coaching abilities. There are whispers about his practices and the amounts of time and effort needed to survive them, but no one can question the fistful of championship rings he owns. But perhaps we should. 

The knock on many coaches with multiple titles is that they were merely managing the wealth of talent given to them. Red Auerbach’s Celtics had a number of good players led by the legendary Bill Russell. Phil Jackson coached Shaq in his prime, had a younger version of Kobe, and had the luxury of getting Jordan and Pippen at their peaks. Riley had the Showtime Lakers, led by Magic Johnson. 

Typically, these coaches inherit these teams after the previous coach is shown the door. Riley won his ring with the Heat after he allegedly kicked Stan Van Gundy out once the Heat acquired Shaq. Officially, SVG said he was stepping down voluntarily. The Heat won a title with Riley at the position he volunteered to vacate just a couple of seasons before, after the team had become less successful. 

Sounds a lot like today. 

Erik Spolestra has been handed the reins of the team and the rebuilding effort that awaits. Riley will presumably only be an executive, letting a man unknown by outsiders do the job that he didn’t want.  

A word of caution to Coach Spolestra: Don’t get too good at what you’ll be doing. A good record and a team with promise could mean that you’ll be forced into some sort of resignation, probably citing family issues as the reason. And who’ll be there waiting to step in? Good ol’ Riles. 

I wish Riley would just retire and let the team move on. His methods seem dishonest and his technique is perhaps outdated. He seems to only want the glory for himself. It’s shameful that he and his hardened hair are probably the second most recognized figure associated with the franchise. The focus should be on the players, not on the person who hasn’t laced them up in decades.

Instead, we’re here witnessing Riley’s third retirement. Let the third time be the charm, Pat. Let someone else have a shot at the success that you stole from someone else.

[image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gcarvalho/]