Thursday, March 23, 2023

Without Pat Riley, Doc Rivers Wonders If He’ll Be Coach

MIAMI ( Associated Press) — Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers will probably need hours to explain what he’s learned from Miami President Pat Riley over the past three decades.

Or he can sum it up in three words.

“God, everything really,” said Rivers.

Some elements of this Philadelphia-Miami Eastern Conference semifinal series — the Heat lead going 2-0 on Friday night in Game 3 — go back to this season, or last summer, or anytime recently. They go back to 1992, when Riley was coaching the New York Knicks and started a trade for Rivers to run his offense.

Rivers, who had already been in the league for nine seasons, most of them with Atlanta, including an All-Star year in 1987–88, immediately became a Riley disciple. And even though they’ve been on different sides of the fight over the years—it’s the fourth time since Riley’s arrival that Rivers has faced the Heat in the playoffs, Miami has won two of the last three series—one There is clear respect that remains, stemming from the time they spent together long ago.

“I’ve been around some really good people,” said Rivers, whose former coaches include names like Mike Fratello, Larry Brown and Greg Popovich. “But Riley, clearly, had the biggest impact. It’s not even close. I mean, I didn’t have any thoughts about coaching until I played for Pat Riley and the way They did it, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s great.’ ,

Riley was the last coach in the NBA to use Rivers as a starting point guard. They were together in New York for parts of three seasons; Perhaps ironically, their last game together was a loss to Miami in December 1994. Rivers was traded for San Antonio, with Riley leaving the Knicks for the Heat less than a year later.

Both have been champions since Rivers with the Celtics in 2008, Riley with the Heat in 2006, 2012 and 2013. And here they are again.

“The doctor always played the game like he was a coach on the floor,” Riley said this week. “That’s what he played in Atlanta, that’s what I saw in him, and I just believed he had the qualities to get into the coaching profession.”

For Riley, it was not a consideration.

He made it mandatory.

When Rivers retired from the sport, he began working as a basketball broadcaster. Riley didn’t approve of that development at all – and told Rivers that Riley was coaching when his former player was working on the playoff series.

“I didn’t like his comment or my criticism of his former coach,” Riley said.

Turns out, there was a big reason Riley pushed Rivers back from the broadcast site to the bench. He continued to believe that being a conqueror on the shore required a background, knowledge and temperament of rivers.

“When I did TV for three years, he would call or challenge me every day,” Rivers said. “He would literally cut me short. … I used to think he was wrong. He turned right.”

There is no debate on that point. Riley was right. Rivers was destined to coach. He is ninth in all-time wins, fourth all-time in playoff wins, has reached the NBA Finals twice, won the title once, and is last year’s coach.

And when Riley heard Rivers thank you for planting those seeds earlier this week, she was appreciative.

“He has turned out to be one of the greatest coaches of all time,” Riley said. “I was proud to coach him. And I’m proud of what he’s saying here.”


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