(MIAMI – ESPN) — Pat Riley was adamant. He’s not thinking about coaching. Unless he changes his mind.Unlikely as it seems, the twice-retired Hall of Fame coach might contemplate un-retiring again.
Insisting his focus is on this summer’s NBA free-agent bonanza and nothing else, the Miami Heat president acknowledged Monday that it’s possible he could return to the sideline, despite saying when he stepped down in April 2008, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Not even a week after it began, the most crucial offseason in Heat history just got a lot more intriguing.
“I’m not thinking of anything but building this team,” the 65-year-old Riley said. “If I were to leave the team and go somewhere else in a year or two from now, if I got tired of reading books on the beach, excuse me, the Kindle, I might want to coach again. I don’t know. But don’t say that I won’t ever do that or that I can’t do it. If I say yes or no, then you get condemned for it.”
There’s no indication Riley is planning to leave. Riley and team owner Micky Arison recently agreed to extend his deal as president, something that was considered to be a formality, especially because the Heat have spent years planning for this summer, when Miami will have enough salary-cap space to not only re-sign Dwyane Wade but also potentially acquire two star-level players to join him.
And there’s also no indication Riley is unhappy with coach Erik Spoelstra, who worked his way from an entry-level job in the Heat video room onto Riley’s staff and ultimately became his handpicked replacement. Spoelstra has a 90-74 record, guiding Miami to the playoffs twice, though not past the first round.
The NBA’s youngest head coach, Spoelstra is under contract through next season.
“I thought he had a great year,” Riley said.
Miami’s offseason priorities haven’t changed: Persuade Wade to stay, land some marquee free agents and lay the foundation for what Riley hopes can become his next dynasty after the 1980sLos Angeles Lakers.
“I’ll do whatever is in the best interest of building the team here. Period,” Riley said. “Whatever it takes, OK? I’ll let you fill in the blanks. … If some free agent were to say ‘I will come here but you must do this,’ well, hell, if that happens that day, then I might have to give it some thought.”
Riley has far more pressing matters, like making final preparations for when the free-agency window opens July 1. Miami has tons of salary-cap room, enough to offerLeBron James, Chris Bosh or any other free agent a small fortune to play alongside Wade.
There’s so many variables this summer that no one, not even Riley, can predict what’ll happen.
He did say that the job of building a championship contender won’t end in early July. As he’s prone to do, Riley drew a parallel between what might occur now and what happened with his “Showtime” Lakers, where a piece at a time got added to create one of the best clubs in NBA history.
“I think we’ll be able to build a very good team over the next 18 months,” Riley said.
Riley has even been telling prospective ticket-buyers that he wants to see a Miami dynasty.
Bold moves, for certain, and those who know Riley didn’t expect anything less.
“I think that’s why we all love working for Pat. He thinks big,” Spoelstra said last week. “He really does. You have to embrace that when you work for him. I think it’s an exciting mentality. Everything he does, he’s thinking about how to direct this team to a championship and that really galvanizes everybody here that’s working in this building. … Wouldn’t bet against him.”