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Pat Riley
Pat Riley (2014)
Riley at the 2014 Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony in August 2014.
Miami Heat
Position: President
League: NBA
Personal information
Full name: Patrick James Riley
Born: March 20, 1945 (1945-03-20) (age 79)
Rome, New York
Nationality: Flag of the United States American
Physical stats
Listed height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Listed height: 205 lbs (93 kg)
National Basketball Association career
Debut: 1967 for the San Diego Rockets
Final game: 1976 for the Phoenix Suns
Career information
High school: Linton (Schenectady, New York)
College: Kentucky (19641967)
NBA Draft: 1967 / Round: 1 / Pick: 7th
Selected by the San Diego Rockets
Playing career: 19671976 (9 years)
Coaching career: 19792008 (29 years)
Position: Shooting Guard / Small Forward
Number: 42, 12
Best record: 65–17 (.793) (1986–87)
Career history
As player:
19671970 San Diego Rockets
19701976 Los Angeles Lakers
1975–1976 Phoenix Suns
As coach:
19791982 Los Angeles Lakers (Assistant coach)
19811990 Los Angeles Lakers (Head coach)
19911995 New York Knicks (Head coach)
Miami Heat (Head coach)
Career highlights and awards
As player:
As assistant coach:
As head coach:
As executive:
Career statistics
Points: 3,906 (7.4 PPG)
Rebounds: 855 (1.6 RPG)
Assists: 913 (1.7 APG)
Steals: 112 (0.6 SPG)
Blocks: 13 (0.1 BPG)
Career coaching record
NBA: 1210–694 (.636)
Basketball Hall of Fame as coach (inducted in 2008)
External links
executive bio at
player bio at
player stats at

Patrick James Riley (born March 20, 1945) is an American professional basketball executive and a former coach and player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He has been the team president of the Miami Heat since 1995, and he also served as the team's head coach from 1995 to 2003 and again from 2005 to 2008. Regarded as one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time, Riley has won five NBA championships as a head coach, four with the Los Angeles Lakers during their Showtime era in the 1980s and one with the Heat in 2000s. Riley is a nine-time NBA champion across his tenures as a player (1972), assistant coach (1980), head coach (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2006), and executive (2012, 2013).

Riley was named NBA Coach of the Year three times (1989–90, 1992–93, and 1996–97, as head coach of the Lakers, New York Knicks, and Heat, respectively). He was head coach of an NBA All-Star Game team nine times: eight times with the Western Conference team (1982, 1983, 19851990, all as head coach of the Lakers) and once with the Eastern team (1993, as head coach of the Knicks). He is the first North American sports figure to win a championship as a player, as an assistant coach, as a head coach, and as an executive, and in various roles has reached the NBA Finals in six different decades. In 1996, he was named one of the 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA history. Riley most recently won the 2012 and 2013 NBA championships with the Heat as their team president. He received the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award from the NBA Coaches Association on June 20, 2012.

Early life[]

Riley was born in Rome, New York and raised in Schenectady, New York. He is the son of Mary Rosalia (Balloga) and Leon Riley, who played 22 seasons of minor league baseball as an outfielder and first baseman, and appeared in four games for the 1944 Philadelphia Phillies.

Riley played basketball for Linton High School in Schenectady under head coach Walt Przybylo and assistants Bill Rapavy and Ed Catino. Linton High School's 74–68 victory over New York City's Power Memorial on December 29, 1961, is remembered mostly for its two stars: Power Memorial's Lew Alcindor (who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Riley, who would go on to coach Abdul-Jabbar with the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1991, Riley called it "one of the greatest games in the history of Schenectady basketball."

College career (1963–1967)[]

Riley played college basketball for four seasons for the Kentucky Wildcats—one on the freshman team and three on the varsity. As a junior on the 1965–66 Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball team, he was named First Team All-SEC, All-NCAA Tournament Team, NCAA Regional Player of the Year, SEC Player of the Year, and AP Third Team All-American, leading the Wildcats to the 1966 NCAA title game. Coached by Adolph Rupp, UK lost to Texas Western (today's UTEP), a game that was reenacted in the movie Glory Road. In his senior year, Riley made First Team All-SEC, becoming one of the few players in storied Kentucky basketball history to be named First Team All-SEC twice.

Professional playing career (1967–1976)[]

Riley was selected by the San Diego Rockets as the seventh overall pick of the 1967 NBA Draft. Despite the fact that he had not played college football, Riley was also drafted as a wide receiver by the Dallas Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1967 NFL Draft. After playing three seasons with the Rockets, he was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1970 NBA expansion draft. The Blazers traded Riley to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played for five seasons. Riley played a significant role as a reserve on the Lakers' 1972 NBA Championship team. During the 1975–76 season, Riley was traded to the Phoenix Suns. He retired in 1976, having averaged 7.4 points per game over his nine seasons in the league.

Coaching and executive career (1979–present)[]

Los Angeles Lakers (1979–1990)[]

Riley returned to the NBA in 1977 as a broadcaster for the Lakers. In November 1979, after the team's head coach, Jack McKinney, was injured in a near-fatal bicycle accident, assistant coach Paul Westhead took over the team's head coaching duties and hired Riley as an assistant coach. With rookie Guard Magic Johnson and longtime star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in six games in the 1980 NBA Finals, giving Westhead and Riley championship rings in their first year coaching the team. However, the team lost in the playoffs the next year to the Moses Malone-led Houston Rockets.

Six games into the 1981–82 season, Magic Johnson said he wished to be traded because he was unhappy playing for Westhead. Shortly afterward, Lakers' owner Jerry Buss fired Westhead. At an ensuing press conference, with Jerry West at his side, Buss named West head coach. West, however, balked, and Buss awkwardly tried to name West as "offensive captain" and then named West and Riley as co-coaches. West made it clear during the press conference that he would only assist Riley, and that Riley was the head coach. Thereafter, Riley was the interim head coach, until his status became permanent.

Riley ushered in the Lakers' "Showtime" era, along with superstar players Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar with their running game. Riley became a celebrity in his own right, a fashion icon for his Armani suits and slicked-back hair which complemented the team's Hollywood image.

Besides using Lakers' up-tempo style established by McKinney and Westhead, Riley was also innovative on defense; he was one of the first coaches to employ a 1-3-1 half-court trap to pick up the pace of the game. Though the Showtime Lakers were known for their offense, they won championships with their defense. In Cooper, they had one of the top defensive stoppers in the game. The league-wide perception was that the Lakers played with finesse and were not physical enough to win in the playoffs. Riley's mantra was "no rebounds, no rings", reinforcing the need to fight for rebounds in order to win championships.

Riley led the Lakers to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. His first title came in his first season, against the Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams returned to the Finals the next year, and this time Riley's Lakers were swept by the 76ers. The Lakers lost in the Finals again in 1984, to the Boston Celtics in seven games. The Lakers earned Riley his second NBA title in 1985 in a rematch of the previous year, as the Lakers beat the Celtics in six games. The Lakers' four-year Western Conference streak was broken the following year by the Houston Rockets.

In 1987, Riley coached a Lakers team that is considered one of the best teams of all time. With future Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, plus Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, A.C. Green, Mychal Thompson, and Kurt Rambis, the Lakers finished 65–17 in the regular season, third-best in team history. They met with similar success in the playoffs, dispatching the Celtics in six games to win Riley his third NBA title.

One of Riley's most famous moments came when he guaranteed the crowd a repeat championship during the Lakers' championship parade in downtown Los Angeles (he first made the guarantee during the post-victory locker room celebration). While the 1988 Lakers did not produce as many wins in the regular season as the 1987 Lakers, they still won the NBA title, becoming the first team in 19 years to repeat as champions. The Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons in seven games in the 1988 NBA Finals, making good on Riley's promise. Riley's titles with the Lakers make him one of six men to play for an NBA Championship team and later coach the same NBA team to a championship; the others are George Senesky, Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, and Billy Cunningham.

Although Riley would offer no further guarantees, his Lakers embarked upon a quest to obtain a third consecutive championship in 1989. Having successfully claimed a repeat championship the year before, the term used for this new goal was a three-peat championship, and Riley, through his corporate entity, Riles & Co., trademarked the phrase three-peat. However, in a rematch of the previous year's Finals series, the Lakers were swept by the Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals.

Riley was named NBA Coach of the Year for the first time in 1989–90, but stepped down as Lakers head coach after they lost to the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs. At the time of his departure, Riley was the foremost coach in the NBA with a level of fame not seen since Red Auerbach.

New York Knicks (1991–1995)[]

After stepping down, Riley accepted a job as a television commentator for NBC for one year before being named head coach of the New York Knicks, starting with the 1991–92 season.

Commentators admired Riley's ability to work with the physical, deliberate Knicks, adapting his "Showtime" style with the fast-paced Laker teams in the 1980s. The Chicago Bulls had easily swept the Knicks in 1991 en route to their first championship. However, in 1992, with Riley, the Knicks pushed the defending champion Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The physical defense of the Knicks against the Bulls' superstars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen during the 1992 Playoffs led to a feud between Riley and Bulls head coach Phil Jackson regarding the officiating and the Knicks' rough style of play. In 1993, Riley led the Knicks to their best regular season record in team history (tied with the 1969–1970 team) and received his second Coach of the Year award. The Knicks again met the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals, but lost in six games after winning the first two games at home. Jackson's Bulls that season went on to win the Finals and accomplish a "three-peat," despite Riley's trademark in 1989.

Riley returned to the NBA Finals, in 1994, en route defeating the three-time defending champion Bulls (without Jordan) in seven games during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. However, New York lost in seven games to the Houston Rockets after being up 3–2 in the series. During the 1994 Finals, Riley became the first coach to participate in an NBA Finals Game 7 with two teams, having been with the Lakers in 1984 and 1988. However, he had the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first (and to date, only) coach to lose an NBA Finals Game 7 with two teams, having lost to the Celtics, in 1984. It also denied him the distinction of becoming the first coach to win a Game 7 in the Finals with two teams, having defeated the Pistons in seven games, in 1988.

Miami Heat (1995–present)[]

In 1995, Riley resigned from the Knicks via fax to become president and head coach of the Miami Heat, with complete control over basketball operations. The move caused some controversy, as the Heat were accused by the Knicks of tampering by pursuing Riley while he still had a year remaining on his contract with the Knicks. The matter was settled after the Heat sent their 1996 first-round pick (which the Knicks used to draft Walter McCarty) and $1 million in cash to the Knicks on September 1, 1995.

In the 1995–96 season, Riley led the Heat to a 42–40 record, which was a 10-game improvement over the team's previous season. Miami was swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Phil Jackson-coached Chicago Bulls, who went on to win the NBA championship. This Heat season was notable for personnel changes, as the team welcomed franchise building blocks Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. Following the season, the Heat also obtained Nets Forward P.J. Brown and Suns swingman Dan Majerle.

In 1997, Riley's Heat defeated his old team, the Knicks, in a physical seven-game series. Advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, the Heat were again defeated by the defending and eventual champion Bulls. Riley was selected as Coach of the Year for the third time after leading Miami to a 61–21 regular season record and first place in the Atlantic Division.

The Heat lost to the archrival Knicks in the playoffs in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Riley then traded Brown and Jamal Mashburn in exchange for Eddie Jones in one trade and acquired Brian Grant in another, although the team suffered a major setback after Alonzo Mourning was lost for the season due to a kidney ailment. After finishing 50–32 in the 2000–01 season, the Heat were swept by the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Heat then lost two of their best players when Guard Tim Hardaway was traded to the Dallas Mavericks and Anthony Mason signed with the Milwaukee Bucks. In part because of these departures, the Heat crumbled to a 36–46 in 2002–the first time that a Riley-coached team had not had a winning season or made the playoffs. Riley was so disgusted with the Heat's performance that he declared he was about to "fire himself".

After the Heat finished the 2002–03 season 25–57, Riley stepped down as head coach and was succeeded by longtime assistant Stan Van Gundy. In the 2003 NBA Draft, the Heat held the 5th overall pick, which they used to select Dwyane Wade. In July 2004, Riley traded Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Lamar Odom, and a first-round draft pick to the Lakers for star Center Shaquille O'Neal. Wade and O'Neal led the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2005 Playoffs, although they lost to the defending champions Detroit Pistons after leading the series 3–2.

Pat Riley

Riley in 2007 during his second stint as the Heat's coach.

During the 2005 off-season, it was widely speculated that Riley was attempting to push Van Gundy out and make himself head coach once again now that the team was a championship contender. Van Gundy resigned from his position just 21 games into the 2005–2006 season, citing a need to spend more time with his family. Riley named himself as Van Gundy's successor. Riley's Heat team defeated the Detroit Pistons in the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals on June 2, 2006, making it the first time that the Heat reached the Finals. Riley's Heat squared off against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals. Despite losing the first two games to Dallas, the Heat rallied to win the next four games and their first NBA championship. After Game 6, Riley commented that he had packed one suit, one shirt and one tie for the trip to Dallas. It was Riley's fifth championship as a head coach and his first with a team other than the Lakers.

Citing hip and knee problems, Riley took a leave of absence from coaching from January 3, 2007 through February 19, 2007. Assistant coach Ron Rothstein assumed interim duties. The Heat finished the season 44–38 and were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Chicago Bulls; the first defending champions to be swept in the first round since 1957. The following season, the Heat finished 15–67. The team had lost several of its players to extended injuries, and a disgruntled Shaquille O'Neal was traded mid-season. Two years after winning the championship, they finished with one of the worst seasons in NBA history. It also tied the Heat's inaugural season of 1988-89 as the worst in franchise history, and was easily the worst full-season record compiled by a Riley-coached team.

On April 28, 2008, Riley announced that he would step down as head coach, while remaining as team president. He named assistant Erik Spoelstra as head coach. Although the Heat have nominally had a general manager for most of Riley's tenure as team president (Randy Pfund until 2008, and Andy Elisburg since 2013), Riley has had the final say in basketball matters since his arrival in Miami. In 2010, Riley acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh to form the Heat's "Big Three" with Dwyane Wade. The Heat proceeded to reach the NBA Finals during each of the next four seasons (2011 through 2014). In 2012, the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games to give Riley his first championship purely as an executive. The Heat repeated as champions in 2013, defeating the San Antonio Spurs.

In the 2019-2020 season, the Heat became the fourth team in NBA history to finish lower than fourth place in their conference in the regular season and make it to the NBA Finals. The 2019–20 Heat team has been considered by some to be Riley's "magnum opus", since the team's Finals run was not preceded by a dramatic rebuild or by the selection of a high draft pick. Before the season, Riley traded for Jimmy Butler, drafted Tyler Herro, and signed the undrafted Kendrick Nunn. Before the 2019–20 trade deadline, the Heat obtained Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. Facing Riley's former team, the Los Angeles Lakers (led by former Heat superstar LeBron James), the Heat were defeated in six games.

Outside basketball[]

Pat Riley George Bush

Riley and the Miami Heat with President George W. Bush, February 2007.

Outside basketball, Riley has developed into a pop culture figure. This is born out of Riley's signature look, a slicked-back hairstyle, which is often described as gangster- or mafioso-like, and his immaculate tan. Riley's nickname is "The Godfather" because of his appearance.

In 1988, Riley published a book entitled Showtime: Inside the Lakers' Breakthrough Season, a New York Times best-seller which recapped the Lakers' successful run to the 1987 NBA Championship. One of the phrases Riley coined in the book was the "Disease of More", stating that "success is often the first step toward disaster" and that defending champions often fail the following season because every player who returns wants more playing time, more shots per game, and more money. The phrase stemmed from the Lakers' disappointing 1980–81 campaign coming off a championship the previous season.

In 1993, while coaching the New York Knicks, Riley published a second New York Times bestseller entitled The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players. Aimed at business leadership as well as basketball enthusiasts, it distilled a lesson in teamwork and leadership from each of Riley's seasons as a coach to that date. Byron Laursen, saluted by Riley as "...a true Showtime Warrior", co-authored both of Riley's books.

Riley is known for his friendship with Giorgio Armani, preferring to wear Armani suits during basketball games and modeling once at an Armani show.

Riley has been married to the former Christine Rodstrom since June 26, 1970. In 1985, the Rileys adopted a son, James Patrick. In 1989, they adopted a daughter, Elisabeth. Riley is a practicing Roman Catholic.

On February 27, 2007, the Miami Heat were honored for their 2005–2006 NBA Championship at the White House. During the ceremony, Riley presented George W. Bush with a jersey before announcing, "I voted for the man. If you don't vote, you don't count." After the ceremony, Riley was questioned by reporters about the political nature of his comments. He responded by saying, "I'm pro-American, pro-democracy, I'm pro-government. I follow my boss. He's my boss."

Career statistics[]

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 †  Won an NBA championship


Regular season[]

1967–68 San Diego 80 15.8 .379 .634 2.2 1.7 7.9
1968–69 San Diego 56 18.3 .406 .672 2.0 2.4 8.8
1969–70 San Diego 36 13.2 .417 .727 1.6 2.4 5.3
1970–71 L.A. Lakers 54 9.4 .413 .644 1.0 1.3 4.9
1971–72 L.A. Lakers 67 13.8 .447 .743 1.9 1.1 6.7
1972–73 L.A. Lakers 55 14.6 .428 .793 1.2 1.5 7.3
1973–74 L.A. Lakers 72 18.9 .430 .764 1.8 2.1 .8 .0 9.5
1974–75 L.A. Lakers 46 22.1 .419 .742 1.8 2.6 .8 .1 11.0
1975–76 L.A. Lakers 2 11.5 .385 .333 1.5 .0 .5 .5 5.5
1975–76 Phoenix 60 13.2 .389 .730 .8 1.0 .4 .1 4.6
Career 528 15.5 .414 .705 1.6 1.7 .6 .1 7.4


1969 San Diego 5 15.2 .432 .833 2.2 .4 7.4
1971 L.A. Lakers 7 19.3 .420 .727 2.1 2.0 9.4
1972 L.A. Lakers 15 16.3 .333 .750 1.9 .9 5.2
1973 L.A. Lakers 7 7.6 .333 .7 1.0 2.6
1974 L.A. Lakers 5 21.2 .360 .750 1.2 2.0 .8 .0 7.8
1976 Phoenix 5 5.4 .400 1.000 .0 1.0 .0 .0 2.6
Career 44 14.6 .374 .763 1.5 1.2 .4 .0 5.7


1964–65 Kentucky 25 33.0 .432 .618 8.5 1.1 15.0
1965–66 Kentucky 29 37.2 .516 .699 8.9 2.2 22.0
1966–67 Kentucky 26 36.7 .442 .782 7.7 2.6 17.4
Career 80 35.7 .469 .714 8.4 2.0 18.3

See also[]