I have been a fan of the Miami Heat since their inception. Your arrival in 1995 gave Miami immediate relevance in the NBA world. Without your charisma and drive I have no doubt that instead of the Heat being perennial championship contenders, the Heat would have more in common with their expansion brethren, the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets or the Minnesota Timberwolves. Out of thin air you have convinced all time greats such as Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James to forsake greener pastures and play ball in South Florida. Through your motivational brilliance you brought Heat fans to Shangri-La with a championship in 2006. I am grateful for all of this. But one thing troubles me, why are you still employing Erik Spoelstra as the head coach of the Miami Heat?
This past summer you recruited three of the top ten players in the league in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. This is a threesome with enough talent I was convinced you could enlist Woody Allen and Lady Gaga to play point guard and center and the Heat would still win the championship. But you did not relent, you added a smart group of savvy veterans and sharp shooters to round out the roster. Watching Coach Spoelstra mismanage time outs and substitutions the past two years had me a little concerned, but I figured the overwhelming roster you assembled would trump poor executive skills. I boldly predicted (and even put money on) the Heat finishing with a 70-12 record.
Watching the Heat start out with an 8-7 record has me not only concerned for my money, but also for my sanity. This should be a team that inspires poetry or at the very least booty rap, but instead the team looks alternatingly bored, overwhelmed, or lost. There have been the expected blow-out wins when our talent smothers the opponent, but when the opposing team stands up to us and the score gets close it is inevitably our side that backs down. The offense consists of lazily jacked up three pointers or James or Wade dribbling around while the other players watch. The defense at the end of games has been tired and unfocused.
In an excellent New York Magazine profile of you in 1992 David Halberstam wrote, “Pat Riley is in search of character and excellence. Nothing less. He is convinced that they go hand in hand. Most people, he says, think they work hard, but in truth, they really don’t. They are not willing, once they achieve a level of success, to make that constant extra effort to extend their abilities to the highest level. This is true about almost every aspect of life, he thinks, and it is particularly true about professional basketball. He is not impressed by talent without character.”
These are the nuggets of wisdom young men in search of father figures such as LeBron James need to hear. You are a former NBA player who also coached some of the greatest players in basketball history. You have the cachet and motivational skills to get these guys to play to their full potential in a way the mild mannered and aloof Spoelstra never will.
But you are a smart man, you must realize this from your perch at courtside. So I can only think of two reasons why you have not usurped your rightful position as coach of the Miami Heat. Spoelstra must have evidence of you performing dastardly deeds. But whatever you did if Eddie Murphy can make family films after being stopped with a transsexual in his car, than the public will surely forgive whatever misdeed you performed.
Or perhaps you did not like the way your reputation took a hit when you took over for Stan Van Gundy? You do not wish to be seen as a Machiavellian glory hound who lets others do the grunt work, before stepping in for the championship parade . You are thus letting Spoelstra dig the team into such a deep hole that you will receive infinite letters such as this and the fans in the balconies will chant, “We Want Riley” in even louder voices. You will then have no choice, but to fire Spoelstra and give the people what they want.
Whatever it is you’re scheming, you’ve earned my trust. But just in case you’re serious about not wanting to coach again, I’ll send you my contact information. Other than having to pick up some dry cleaning my docket is pretty clean the next few months. While my only coaching experience involves high school swimming I’m certain I could get the Heat to play with more confidence and life than Spoelstra has mustered the last couple years.