Pat Riley is an excellent coach, no doubt about it. In his 24 years of coaching, Riley has amassed 1,904 wins with a winning percentage of .636. He's got five NBA titles, another four trips to the Finals and three Coach of the Year awards. Throw all that in with his glorious mane of hair and you're talking about one of the best coaches ever.
And there's a chance he might be coming back to the sidelines.
Yet asked if he definitively could say he would not return to coaching, Riley took umbrage to the line of questioning.
"I'll do whatever is in the best interest of building the team here. Period," he said. "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."
Those sound like the noncommittal words of a guy who might be interested in coaching the best players in the NBA, but only the best players in the NBA. Kind of like when he ousted Stan Van Gundy prior to the Heat's 2006 championship run.
During the decade of the 2000's, Pat Riley coached six of the 10 seasons, five of them fully. In that time, despite winning an NBA Championship, he's not a .600 coach. Nor is he .550. He's not even close to .500. For the 2000s, Pat Riley's winning percentage in the regular season as a head coach was .448. For a coach with a .636 winning percentage for his career, that's a pretty large chunk of below-mediocre.
All right, you'll argue that the 15-win season throws everything out of whack. That Pat Riley is clearly the best option the Miami Heat has as coach, and only by his divine providence does Erik Spoelstra serve. Let's take a look at his tenure in full, shall we? Riley has spent 10 seasons as head coach of the Miami Heat, eight in full (strike-shortened 1998-1999, and he took over for Stan Van Gundy in 2006). For a man who has coached 24 seasons in the NBA, he's spent the plurality of his time on the bench for Miami. In that time, he coached 849 regular-season games for the Heat. In those games, Riley won 454 and lost 395. That's a winning percentage of .535. Considering the talent Riley had over that time, and the fact that there was a championship in that period, it's a shockingly low number. Especially when you consider that with a team designed to self-destruct and constant pressure involving his job security, Erik Spoelstra has managed .549 in two seasons.
Of course, Spoelstra's sample size might help him. But coming off a 15-win season left by his predecessor, besting him over two 82-game seasons ain't too shabby.
The way I see it, Miami re-signs Wade, lands a second-tier free agent like Carlos Boozer(notes) and Riley comes back. Who knows what will happen, but once Riley starts talking about coaching, pretty soon it's more than just talk. Now might be a good time to buy some stock in Armani.
- Pat Riley