During the early sleepy NBA season that is November you can always count on Laker coach Phil Jackson to stir things up. In a season where the biggest and loudest expectations were not on the back-to-back reigning NBA World Championship Los Angeles Lakers but on a newly stitched together free agent extravaganza of Lebron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade in Miami. With the Heat faltering 14 games into the season and culminating into an embarrassing loss to the Indiana Pacers the pressure is on to right the ship. This has lead to a lot of speculation and consternation about how this is going to occur. A debate good enough for a courtroom drama; let’s call it Law & Order: SVG.
Phil, your opening statement please: (as told to WMVP-AM 1000 in Chicago)
"The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited -- Bosh and James -- by Pat Riley and Mickey Arrison, the owner, are going to come in and say, 'We feel you [Riley] can do a better job coaching the team. We came here on the hopes that this would work,' and whatever, I don't know, that's kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don't straighten out here soon, it could be the Van Gundy thing all over again."
Objection! This would certainly appear inappropriate for an active coach to be speculating on the status of another active coach. At least that’s what Orlando Magic and former Miami Heat coach, Stan Van Gundy thought. Your rebuttal, sir: (at his press conference)
"First of all, to second guess another coach and to comment on a situation he knew nothing about is inappropriate and it's also ignorant. I don't mean that commenting on Phil's intelligence; he's obviously a very smart guy. I mean that as ignorant because he doesn't know what that situation was and he doesn't know what the situation in Miami is now.”
Now at this point no one is shocked by Jackson’s assertion that Pat Riley would be coaxed from the front office to take the reins from current Heat coach, Erik Spoelstra. Right? Since the All-Stars joined the team during the off-season many in the media wondered as they do now if and when Riley would take over the coaching duties. Jackson is simply stating precedence in the Case of Riley v Van Gundy.
In 2005 then coach, Van Gundy was in a similar situation. After an 11-10 start to the season he abruptly retired stating the contrived line of wanting “to spend more time with his family.” Now this workaholic coach up and decided one day he had enough and wanted to throw the ball around with his kids and go antiquing with his wife? I’m sure Riley’s comments during that summer of wanting to “take a little bit more of an active participation" with the team had nothing to do with it. Riley would go on to coach the team to its first championship.
So the idea that everyone in the media has speculated about but perhaps hadn’t verbally expressed it as Jackson did doesn’t make it ignorant as Van Gundy stated. Van Gundy has been victim to it before. Why wouldn’t it make sense to think that Riley is chomping at the bit to get his hands on this talented, yet disjointed, team and work his magic again to a championship? Riley’s ego demands it. If he pushed a seasoned coach like Van Gundy out of the way what chance would a young coach like Spoelstra stand?
I don’t know how much Van Gundy was compensated to get out of the way then and keep his mouth shut but it must’ve been a hefty amount. Now he’s defending his old organization against the common thoughts of common sense people. There are no more whispers about the possibility of replacing the coach with Riles. It’s out in the open thanks to Jackson making waves like only he knows how; with blunt candor, either by design or habit, but someone has to react.
Stan Van Gundy took the bait and he’s guilty again. Case closed. “chung CHUNG”