MIAMI – Pat Riley knows this is not the NBA from his heyday as a coach in Los Angeles, New York and with the Miami Heat.
So when the Heat president sees his team’s defense ranked 22nd in the league with a 107.1 rating and 19th allowing 108.5 points per game after four games, he knows other factors go into those numbers.
“There’s a fine line that a coach has to make a decision, when you want to play a pace game,” said Riley, 72, who was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions on Thursday night. “Look it was easy for me, it was so easy when I coached because I could stop the team by throwing two fingers in the air or a fist in the air and I would take 24 seconds off the shot clock, we would keep the score in the 80s. And sometimes when you’re breaking and running and going hard, and shots are flying, turnovers are happening, layups are being missed, whatever happens, what’s going the other way has to be valuable.”
Riley added once things are settled coach Erik Spoelstra “can either go forward further with it or he can pull back on it. He’s fully committed to it. I think we have the guys that are committed to playing.”
Riley’s teams were noted for their hard-nosed, bloody-the-opponent defense that tried to keep the scores in the 70s and 80s.
“When you control a shot clock on offense for many years like I did, then you can control your defense a lot better, because of the shots you’re taking and guys’ responsibilities,” he said.
“It’s a whole new world, it’s a different game. It really is. I’m excited to watch it, to watch it every single night. Some of the players in this league are exciting and talented and coaches have decided to go that way.”
Riley is not panicking after the 2-2 start that included a 117-110 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday.
“It’s early,” he said. “I’m not assessing anything right now. Let’s get Hassan back. That’s sort of a bummer.”
Center Hassan Whiteside has missed three games because of a bone bruise in his left knee.
Riley, though, is pleased with a couple of aspects of his team since it started training camp a month ago.
“The one thing about the team we see every single day and what we see every single night is it’s going to come hard, they’re going to play hard,” Riley said. “They’re bringing every night with effort and once the efficiency catches up with the effort, maybe some of that pace slows down, giving, I think, a real balance. But right now it’s just too early to assess.”
Riley also praised the play of his last two draft picks, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo.
“They’re both young,” he said. “That’s the difference between lottery picks and not having lottery picks or picking in the 20s. … But I’m happy with both Justise and Bam. Listen, five years from now, I hope they’re going to be on the All-Star team.”
Riley was inducted along with former University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris, former Florida football player Carlos Alvarez and drag racer Darrell Gwynn. The ceremony was held at Marlins Park.
“The chamber of commerce for 23 years has been trying to get me to come, but I was so compulsively obsessed with basketball games I didn’t really want to do many things,” Riley said. “The chamber is absolutely vital to a community and they do a great job. It’s a dedicated group of businessmen and entrepreneurs and people who really care about the city of Miami. It’s an honor to be here”
Riley arrived in South Florida in 1995, hired by Heat owner Micky Arison as the president and coach of the Heat. Since, Miami has won three titles, with Riley coaching the 2006 title team, and played in five NBA Finals.
Heat players/coaches inducted into the Hall of Champions include Udonis Haslem (2016), Dwyane Wade (2015), Rony Seikaly (2005), Rony Seikaly (2005), Alonzo Mourning (2001).