Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Immortalizing Pat Riley

In hindsight, Pat Riley should have retired from coaching after the Heat won the championship in 2006. He could have retreated from the hardwood on the highest note, scraping a yacht-sized legacy across Key Biscayne, the slew of idolaters lining up to scream their euphoric praises. That was, as Riley himself admitted, the culmination of his career, the championship that validated his years of just-shorts after a blessed first chapter (four championships in LA).

Now? Riley goes out as a controversial figure, his virtues extolled, but his vices discussed as well. That's the downside to leaving the game on the lowest note, abandoning a team when they're poised to claim the most lottery balls. Is it fair? Of course not, and I suspect the acclaim will be what most people remember once a few years trickle by. It just seems he should have gotten that unconditional respect now.

Let's examine the post-announcement reaction:

- Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel puts out a well-crafted eulogy, highlighting Riley's talents not only as a coach, but as a master of the English language. How true.

- Greg Cote of the Miami Herald defends the move, both from Riley's perspective and the team. Beautifully written.

- ESPN's J.A. Adande exalts Riley for his greatness, suggesting (as I did above) that the good will outweight the bad.

- Chris Sheridan of ESPN offers some cautioning words for those who think Riley is done with coaching. He doesn't doubt Riley's sincerity, but his ability to hold true to his current thoughts. Sheridan certainly has a point.

- Lastly, here's a well-assembled montage of Riley through the years.

As for Erik Spoelstra, the Palm Beach Post's Tom D'Angelo paints a brilliant picture of who the guy is and why he has a bright future ahead of him. We couldn't agree more. We bid adieu to a true paladin of the game and welcome a potential great.

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