Pat Riley has had a roller coaster of a year as the Miami Heat’s general manager and president of basketball operations. His team finished the year at 41-41, which meant they missed the playoffs by only a game on the last day of the season.
More astounding is the fact that they dug themselves out of an 11-30 start to the season, which was the second-worst in the entire league. Going 30-11 to almost climb all the way back into postseason play is truly remarkable as teams with those stars usually languish.
The Godfather watched it all happen from his special seat in the lower bowl or his office deep within American Airlines Arena. In a profile for ESPN the Magazine, Wright Thompson managed to get the very private head man to open up on the entire journey this year.
One surprising thing that Riles has not seemed to let go of is his love for Dwyane Wade, who left the franchise in free agency last summer. If there was anything that he could do over again, it would be how he handled the final days with his star player and the strategies in play.
Via ESPN: “But of course, Riley says, almost immediately after LeBron left, Bosh’s camp wanted to reopen a deal they’d just finished, knowing the Heat had money and felt vulnerable. Bosh threatened to sign with the Rockets.
“In the end, Riley gave Bosh what he wanted. Now he wishes he’d said no to Bosh’s max deal and given all that money to Wade…’You never think it’s gonna end,’ Riley says. ‘Then it always ends.’”
In hindsight, that feels like a no-brainer, but there is no way that the general manager could have known that his All-Star power forward would have to leave the game with life-threatening blood clots just two years after LeBron James left.
One thing becomes obvious in the piece, Riley truly seemed to care about Dwyane Wade far more than it appeared on the surface in his departure. In some ways, the shooting guard was more emblematic of his time there than any other players.
Until someone replaces him as the absolute alpha dog down on South Beach, the club will continue to be associated with the three-time NBA champion. From the sounds of the profile, it seems like Riles isn’t going to retire until he gets the successor to that legacy.
Until then, it will always be a game of what could have been with the Heat.