Let's see. Phil Jackson will be back coaching the Lakers. Larry Brown is still wiggling in his Pistons head coaching job. And now, there are rumors swirling around Miami that Pat Riley may bump Stan Van Gundy off the Heat bench.
Amazing that Riley would do such a thing. His talk says he is missing coaching....the comradarie and fellowship of grown men fighting for a common cause. In all actuality, he misses the fact that he won't be the guy pubically showered with love in Miami for bringing home a possible championship. Stan Van Gundy has done a masterful job as the Heat's head coach....a job that was handed to him, from Riley, just days before the 2003-2004 season was to begin.
Ya know...that season the Heat were supposed to really suck and Riley didn't want to deal with it. His final Heat team was 25-57 and Riley felt as if opponents were piling it on to get back at Riley....who had never tasted failure in such a manner before. He got into it with Ron Artest on the court and officials off it. And no one cared. No one cared to see Riley get the short end of the stick. Even Alonzo Mourning...who forced a trade to Miami to play for Riley...left to go to a "winner" in New Jersey. So Riley quit before the next season began.
One weird thing happened: Miami put together a solid season and ended up in the playoffs. New acquisitions Dwayne Wade and Lamar Odom led Miami [under Van Gundy] to a 42-40 record and into the 2nd round of the playoffs. That led to team potential, which attracted Shaquille O'Neal to Miami. Last year, Miami finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and were one game away from playing in the NBA Finals.
Now Riley sees this as a chance to get back in there and close out the job. One thing....it wasn't Van Gundy'sfault the Heat didn't get to the Finals. Injuries to Shaq and Wade [among others] left the Heat a tad undermanned against an experienced Pistons team. Had the team been healthy....they may have ended up with the title.
Is it ego then?? It shouldn't be...since no one doubts Riley's place in NBA lore. His 4 championships with the Lakers and success in New York and Miami leave nothing to be desired. In fact, his drafting of Wade and dealing for Shaq just go to prove how well of a front office man Riley has become. So while Van Gundy gets the face time....people know Riley's involvement.
And his biggest fish is Shaq....who also is in a bit of some negotiations with the team. Some feel that part of the talks do center on Riley becoming the coach. Remember, Shaq was angry after the Eastern Conference Finals for not getting enough shots late in the game and has referred to playing for "Pat"....not "Stan". And that could help with the undoing.
As a Laker fan....Pat Riley always has a special place in my sports heart. Seeing footage of him making the "guarantee" which seems so trite now still get me rolling. But, Pat, let Van Gundy do his thing. You dumped your team on him....let him ride it out.
Let him finish the game.
Here are some opinions from around AOL:
Bar 1 G: "IM a Laker fan and have been since they moved to LA and remember when Riles was Chicks color man and that it was Chick Hern that told Pat that he would make a great coach and that he should give it a try. He literally pushed Pat into the job. Having said that If this SVG story comes true I will have lost a lot of respect for Riles."
HGZ89: "Stan Van Gundy is a much better coach now than Pat Riley is today. The best would be if Pat Riley would join as an assistant, rather than ruin the good atmosphere Van Gundy has put on this team. If Van Gundy is fired, I guarentee several other teams would pursue him. I would keep him as coach, and should he not do well this season, fire him (even though i still think that is too harsh). I hope this doesn't turn out to be a Rick Carlisle (sp?) approach like what happened in Detroit 3 years ago."
BC883: "here we go.. so once again, you cannot question stan's job, do you remember he took over 2 season ago right before the season and took a "rebuilding and waiting for their next lottery pick" team to the second round of the nba playoffs... or how about this year losing three starters and filling then in with 2 would be bench players in haslem and d jones and almost making the finals, the heat were a 2 year project believe it or not but stan system had this team ahead of progress, yes shaq did a lot to help them get where there are but he was apart of van gundy;s system, van gundy was taught by reily [sp] like his brother jeff, so why would reily [sp] want to take over for a guy who came up under him and who is doing his name and legacy well... and maybe you have forgot but reily [sp] has a big part in this team, he is the wheeler and dealer behind the scenes to make this team as good as it is now and next year even better... and to answer your other question, reily [sp] will have enough for short term contracts for other guys or even incentive laced contracts but i am sure he will do what he have to so the job gets done"