MIAMI – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was uncomfortable talking about his pursuit of Pat Riley’s Miami Heat coaching record and the Clippers Doc Rivers is not surprised.
“The respect for Spo has always been there,” Rivers said before the Heat’s 90-85 victory Saturday that gave Spoelstra his 455th win, passing Riley as the franchise’s all-time winningest coach.
“Spo is so unassuming. He’s like the greatest coach that no one knows. I think that’s the way he probably wants it. I don’t know how he gets away with it, though. I mean, he’s had the three great players (Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh) together, he looks like he’s on the GQ cover and nobody actually notices him. He’s a terrific coach and one of the great ones. I mean, whenever you do something and the say that you tied Pat Riley, I think you can (realize) how good he is.”
Sure, Spoelstra would rather have seen his team clicking on offense, build a 20-point halftime lead and cruise to an easy victory for the milestone win.
But that’s not this team. And in the end, when the Heat were able to hang on for an ugly win, he felt it was appropriate considering what the game meant.
“I thought that it would be most fitting to go retro and have an old-school Miami Heat game in honor of coach Riley,” Spoelstra said. “This is the type of game he probably enjoys the most: You win shooting (37.8) percent. I think we scored too many points this game. But those are the old-school, tough, grind-it-out, find-any-way-as-a-competitor to win the games. That’s in honor of my mentor and my coach. He’s still my coach.”
Yeah, but he’s now looking up at his protégé, on many fronts. Spoelstra, who took over for Riley before the 2008-09 season, is 455-296 for a franchise best .606 winning percentage in nine-plus years. His 70 postseason wins are 36 more than Riley had with the Heat and his two titles (2012, 2013) is one more than Riley won in Miami (2006).
Riley was 454-395 in 11 seasons with the Heat, a .535 winning percentage.
The win also moved Spoelstra into 35th place on the NBA all-time list, passing one of the Heat’s original owners, Billy Cunningham, and Byron Scott.
Riley is fourth on that list with 1,210 wins with Lakers, Knicks and Heat. Rivers is 15th at 815. Riley’s 171 playoff wins are second to Phil Jackson, who had 229. Spoelstra is 14th on that list.