NBA: Riley goes into Hall
MIAMI ó Pat Riley is fond of saying that he’s had 16 coaches, the first of whom was his father.
Leon Riley died 38 years ago, but in life’s great moments, he still permeates his son’s every thought. Pat Riley longed for him to be there when he won his first NBA championship as a head coach in 1982. He spoke eloquently about him two years ago in Dallas as the Miami Heat celebrated their title.
And on Monday, when he was introduced as a new inductee to the Basketball Hall of Fame, Riley’s mind was, again, on his dad.
“His voice has always been with me,” Riley said. “And it’s been the only voice. I lost that voice in 1970. I was 25 years old. And while there’s been a lot of other men in my life, most of them coaches, his voice has been the most predominant in my mind.”
It’ll be there with him in Springfield, Mass., during enshrinement on Sept. 5.
The Heat coach and president has been voted a recipient of basketball’s highest honor, a long-expected accolade that comes tinged in irony. Riley’s Heat have the worst record in the NBA this season at 13-64 and will finish with the lowest win total of his career.
For one day, though, all that can be forgotten. He’s a Hall of Famer now.
“It goes to show you that your body of work and the integrity of the Hall of Fame and how they vote transcends somebody having a horrible year,” Riley said.
The Hall of Fame is about a 90-minute drive from Riley’s childhood home, adding even more significance to the honor. The rest of the Hall class includes Patrick Ewing, who played for Riley with the New York Knicks, along with Hakeem Olajuwon, Adrian Dantley, former Immaculata coach and women’s basketball pioneer Cathy Rush, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson and ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale.
“All I know is what coaches have taught me,” Riley said. “Coaching is about respect and I’m so thankful to the people that voted for that respect, for whatever I had contributed to this game.”
Riley has five championships as a head coach, one as an assistant and another as a player. He ranks third all-time in NBA coaching victories with 1,208.
But the Hall’s call completes his resume. Riley remains a legend among high school athletes in New York’s capital region, was a star player for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky in the 1960s and was even drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1967 ó the year he began NBA play with the San Diego Rockets.
“It’s an emotional time for Pat, his family, his friends, to know that he’s worked that hard,” said Ed Maull, one of Riley’s closest friends. “You stop and think about the guys in that Hall of Fame. You’re talking about the Bob Knights, the John Woodens, the Chuck Dalys, the Red Auerbachs. For a man in his profession, you can’t get a higher accolade.”
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