Pat Riley has been with the Miami Heat for 21 years and while it's abundantly clear the franchise is heading toward another rebuild with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade's run with the team now all but over, the 71-year-old made it clear Monday he isn't ready to step away from his duties on Biscayne Boulevard just yet.
"Yeah, I've had thoughts the last couple years of moving on. I really have," Riley said Monday morning in a meeting with a handfuul of beat reporters. "But I woke up this morning and I was just excited. I'm not excited about the dilemma with Chris [Bosh]. But I'm excited about another season, another build, another group of young guys that have been coming in here since Aug. 1. I'm excited about Spo."
Riley, who has been in the NBA nearly 50 years, has built what he considers six different teams with the Heat. There was the Alonzo Mourning-Tim Hardaway squad, the one with Wade, Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Eddie Jones and Udonis Haslem, the team with Shaquille O'Neal and Wade, the team after Shaq left, the Big Three and the squad Riley tried to put together with Luol Deng, Goran Dragic, Wade and Bosh to contend, but played only three months together.
This new era of Heat basketball, Riley said, with Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Dragic excites him for various reasons. One, he'll get to see Spoelstra, his disciple, take a young, fast team and try to mold it the way he wants to. Two, the Heat has an opportunity to find new stars to lead the franchise forward.
"This is not his greatest challenge by the way," Riley said of Spoelstra. "This is far and away from his greatest challenge. His greatest challenge was the four years of the Big 3, putting them together, getting them to the Finals, winning championships. This is a challenge for him, but one I know he's excited about.
"He can go to the drawing board, start moving pieces around, cultivate his own philosophy with this team and I think that's important. That's what the growth of a coach goes through. That's what happens. Players have a tendency to teach you new things and new ways to approach things.
"He's done a lot of work this summer on being able to approach these group of players because he's known pretty much known since mid July the team he's going to have. It's going to be exciting for him."
But how much longer does Riley have? How much longer does he want to stick around? What ultimately does he want to leave the Heat with before stepping away?
"You always get pulled back in," Riley said. "Every single time I've always thought about [my wife] Chris and I just moving on, there's always something else that pulls you back in. What I mean it pulls you back in because if you left at that time everybody says he's running away. I think there's a time when you can do that. But you have to win a championship in order to do that and I've never done that.
"But after 50 years of being around the NBA I think you can leave at any time on your terms whenever you want to do it. But there's a couple things that have to happen as far as I'm concerned.
"I'm not the only leader in this front office. The smartest guy in that room is over there is Andy Elisburg. He's the smartest guy in the room and without him we wouldn't be anywhere. But he's not the smartest guy on the court. So, we have a ying-yang, Andy and I.
"Nick [Arison] as the CEO is an entirely different personality, but he's been here so long and he's in on all the decision making and basically right now when we sit in meetings Nick will sit and listen and then all of a sudden he'll say something and I'll say 'Wow, I didn't think of that in that way.' So, there' a lot of wisdom Nick has. I think a lot of that comes from his father. His father is in the meeting and Spo is in the meeting, too. So, there's five of us right now that are sort of in the decision making process as we move forward.
"What needs to happen, to answer your question, is what's going to be the [line of] succession. I think that's important. I want to make sure that Micky is comfortable with everything before I make that decision. We've had a discussion about that. And when you're 71 years old you have a right to talk about that with you boss.
"I'm not going to leave this damn thing until we have the right people running it. I think I could right now and there would still be the right people running it. But I think we're one person short probably. The one that knows as much as that game out there as he does about this stuff right here."