A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2010-11 NBA Predictions: Executive of the Year

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Uh, well, Pat Riley.

Obviously, I’m not going out on much of a limb here.  Hard to even imagine what would make him not win since even if the team has some struggles, everyone knows that every other GM in the league was jealous of Riley did this summer.  I think the more interesting thing to ponder is the effect that Miami Thrice will have on Riley’s legacy.  If this team goes on to win multiple championships, then I think Riles will have a strong case for having the greatest non-playing career in NBA history…other than Red Auerbach’s career of course.

The obvious debate will be between Riles and Phil Jackson.  As it stands, I think most would agree Jackson has the edge.  11 rings will do that for a fellow.  Let’s face it though, Jackson’s really only down one thing really, really well – and he’s been able to do it 11 times because of the players he’s been able to work with.  I’m sure some will object to that statement, citing that Jackson’s had to make a variety of adjustments to the triangle, and his ability to placate raging egos is second to none, and they’ve got a fair point – but compare what he’s done to the versatility Riles has shown:

  1. Coach of the Showtime Lakers.  I realize he didn’t start Showtime, but in some ways that makes it all the more impressive.  Where the previous coach had failed to satisfy the demanding star Magic Johnson, Riley succeed, and did so not as a lenient player’s coach but as a demander taskmaster, despite never having been a head coach before.
  2. Coach of the hardnosed Knicks.  He goes from the finesse razzle dazzle of LA, and immediately converts the Knicks to the pinnacle of thugball, creating some of the most effective defenses in NBA history, proving he can not only architect, but architect in a direction not influenced by his previous tenure.
  3. Coach & GM for the Heat.  He’s been the mastermind here for 15 years, and we’ve now seen him:
    1. Move the team from 32 to 62 wins within two years of him starting as coach.
    2. Maintain a strong record in ’00-01 despite the lost of his star Alonzo Mourning.
    3. Rebuild the team based on the young talent of Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and Dwyane Wade.  Wade of course being the crown jewel, and one of the smartest draft choices of all time.
    4. Take advantage of the Lakers turmoil to bring Shaquille O’Neal in and help the Heat claim their first title.
    5. Manage to find a sucker to take Shaq away before he started hurting the club too much.
    6. And now the acquisition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh.  The majority of GMs in the league were scheming for years to acquire one of these guys, and Riley manages to acquire both, with the help of his old draft pick Wade.

It’s a breathtaking career, and if it gets capped by a dynasty, only that old curmudgeon with the cigar can claim to have done something similar.

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Written by Matt Johnson

October 27, 2010 at 10:01 pm

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