Pat Riley, Once Front and Center, Reigns in the Background

Better then to consult someone whose employment doesn’t depend on him. Jeff Van Gundy, a Riley protégé who became his coaching antagonist after Riley’s stormy departure from New York in 1995, said: “He morphed into the boss that he always wanted, the boss he thinks you should be. Stay behind the scenes. Do your job.”

Dave Checketts, who in 1991 hired Riley to coach the Knicks, recalled a phone conversation in which West, with whom Riley occasionally clashed during the Lakers’ Showtime era, warned him, “You’re going to have to figure out how to handle the press because Pat will lose his mind when someone says something he doesn’t want out there.”

Said Checketts: “And Pat did say when he came, during hours and hours of conversation, that we needed to speak in one voice. That’s why I give him tremendous credit for what he’s done in Miami — he’s lived by what he’s espoused. And Spoelstra has been a great spokesman, too.”

Six years ago, during my last extended conversation with Riley, he did veer off the agreed-upon interview topic — Magic Johnson’s brief ascension to the Lakers’ presidency. When I complimented him for refusing to tank, for remaining competitive despite losing James to Cleveland and Chris Bosh to a medical issue, Riley said:

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