The Pat Riley Taking the Heat Debate… Heat Must Live Life of Riley

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you are aware that LeBron James took his talents to South Beach over the summer, choosing to team up with current Miami Heat player Dwayne Wade and former Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh. The idea was to form an NBA super team that was to dominate the Eastern Conference and win somewhere between 70 and 80 games.

As you might have heard, things haven’t quite worked that way for King James and his court. LeBron and his subjects (or is it Wade and his subjects?) are off to a pedestrian 10-8 start due to dysfunctional play on the court.

The one part of the Heat that appears to be in full working order is the leak machine, however. Rumors are running rampant that players don’t trust Eric Spoelstra and/or they don’t like him and/or they think he’s an idiot and/or they think he thinks they’re idiots. When you have stories about your presumed championship basketball team (in November) that start with, “sources tell ESPN…” this is not a recipe for regular season success – let alone playoff success. There are innumerable articles online detailing ways to fix the Heat, but I believe I have a way to fix the Heat. They need to put Pat Riley behind the bench – showtime will be back.

If you’re an informed NBA fan, the first thing you’ll say is, “But I heard Dwayne Wade expressly stated that he does not want Pat Riley to coach the team.” While we the fans are trying to decipher that by parsing statements to the press and guessing on the veracity of anonymous blog posts, our suspicion is that there is probably something to that statement. It’s the old, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

But, smoke… fire… it doesn’t matter. Wade is a competitor, arguably one of the grittiest competitors in the NBA. While he may initially bristle at Pat Riley as head coach, that will go away if the team starts winning. And they will under Riley. Say what you want about Pat Riley, and people have, but the man is a winner. He boasts a career winning percentage of .636, nine conference championships, and five NBA championships. He won with “showtime” and he won with the rough and tumble New York Knicks. Can he adapt his team’s style to the modern NBA? Absolutely.

The bigger question, however, is will the players adapt to him? That requires a level of psychoanalysis that I am not qualified to perform, but I think it comes down to a simple question: Will the team bend to the will of the competitor (Dwayne Wade) or the will of the supposed fun-loving “king” (LeBron). I think, when the chips are down, the team and LeBron will cede whatever control they have because ultimately losing isn’t fun. Even LeBron, though he’s shown somewhat of a distaste for rising to challenges presented to him, knows that losing isn’t fun. The Heat’s current headless, freewheeling style will not lead to winning games. Something must change, and Riley is that positive change.

Most importantly, Pat Riley is too proud a man to watch the team he built to go down in flames. Even if he and Spoelstra are close (and word is that they are), winning is all that matters to Riley. He put a bit of his legacy on the line building this super team during the off-season, and men like him don’t cede their legacy to the whims of players or sportswriters. They mold players and teams to their will and live to succeed. The Miami Heat will be winners, but only with a strong-willed, brilliant basketball mind like Pat Riley at the helm.

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