Timing is everything. Take the Miami Heat.They are slumped down in just about every way possible, leading to the persistent rumour that Pat Riley is set to assume head coaching responsibilities.
Never mind that actual head coach Erik Spoelstra comes straight out of the Riley pedigree program, or that he is in close contact with Riles, who attends every game. The story simply will not die.
Riley himself laughs it off. From The Star-Ledger:
“Write it off. Write it off. It’s the media being neurotic. It’s their need to make a story, create a story, and make that story come true. And that ain’t going to happen. Write it off. We’re just in a tough time right now, we’ll get through it.”
That, and the other long quotes like it, could seem like so much friendly clap-trap if it weren’t for another event happening somewhere else in the NBA universe. Riley replaced Stan Van Gundy in 2005, and subsequently led that Shaq-Dwyane Wade team to a title. It’s long been rumoured that, with the team under-performing, RIley simply inserted himself into the equation and took charge where SVG couldn’t. It has become part of his arch-fiend mystique.
And yet this week, Van Gundy has compared David Stern to a dictator, prompting the Commissioner to tell a radio host (via The Orlando Sentinel):
“I’m going to engage in a private discussions at this point with his franchise,” Stern said. “I actually am not going to talk to Stan Van Gundy. I’m going to talk to the ownership of the team.”
I would venture a guess that we’re not going to be hearing from him for the rest of the season,” Stern said. “I think when he stops and reads what he said, realises what he did, he will say no more. … I have a feeling some modicum of self-restraint will cause Stan, and the team for which he works, to rein in his aberrant behaviour.”
So, as of right now, Stan Van Gundy is—if speaking truth to power—at least about as fractious a figure as you’ll find in the NBA. Certainly, he’s a world away from Erik Spoelstra’s young, eager, and pliant personality. Maybe we will see things differently down the line. But don’t go using Van Gundy as a precedent with the Heat, because that man is on a level entirely unto himself.
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