The Pat Riley Taking the Heat Debate… Keep the Hair Gel in the Bottle

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

It’s no surprise to me that the Miami Heat are struggling somewhat, and their current status in the NBA standings indicates that they are indeed struggling. I thought it would take some time for the evil trifecta to gel, and that’s been the case on many nights. But 10-8? That’s a record I thought would belong to a team like the Atlanta Hawks, a middle of the road team with no real shot of advancing deep into the playoffs. These struggles have led to the popular opinion that Eric Spoelstra is squarely on the hot seat and rumblings have been coming out of South Beach that Spoelstra , or Spo (as LeBron calls him) is losing the confidence and trust of his players. It’s just speculation that current Heat president Pat Riley may come down from the front office, put a fresh batch of hair gel in, and return courtside. But, with all due respect to what the Zen Master thinks, count me among those who don’t think that would be such a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong. Pat Riley is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. He has won five NBA championships, including one in 2006 with a Dwyane Wade-led Heat team. That was then. This is now. Riley is now 65 years young. Not old by an means, but old enough to be the grandfather of some of these Heat players.

I’m hearing the critics say, “Well, Pat just won a title four years ago. He hasn’t lost it.” Well, in my mind, Pat Riley had something to prove that season. Yes, he came in and saved the day for Superman (Shaq) and won a title. But he also had to prove to himself, and maybe to the rest of the league, that he could win without the great Lakers teams on the court in front of him. You see, all of his previous championships were won during the Showtime Era . He was able to win with the Heat and for that, he was awarded a lifetime supply of hair gel, probably.

Lest we forget, however, what happened during Riley’s last season in Miami, which was the 2007-2008 campaign. He went a forgettable 15-67, which was the worst record of his career. Maybe that’s fresh in Wade’s mind when Wade is supposedly secretly not in support of Riley coming back courtside. If Riley wouldn’t have the support of Wade, then why even make that move if you are the Heat? Isn’t that where you are now? Isn’t there a coach in charge who supposedly doesn’t have the support of the players? D-Wade’s quote of, “I’m not going to say he’s my guy, but he’s my coach, you know” certainly is interesting, considering Spo was already on staff when Wade was drafted.

It’s not realistic to think Riley could come down out of coaching retirement on his little white stallion and wave the magic wand and all of a sudden make the troubles of the Heat go away. Some of these troubles are going to have to be worked around (the lack of a true center and the dubious distinction of having a member of the Fab Five on the team, some 19 years after he first stepped on campus in Ann Arbor). Who is to say Riley could fix this mid-season, especially since he has been out of coaching for two and a half years?

There are just too many unknowns with Riley. Yes, he has the experience, but after telling the James-Chris Bosh-Wade during the off-season that “Spo” was the man, would he have the respect? That’s questionable, and that makes Riley’s possible return courtside a questionable decision.

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