Patrick James Riley (born March 20, 1945) is an American professional basketball executive and a former coach and player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He has been the team president of the Miami Heat since 1995, and he also served as the team's head coach from 1995 to 2003 and again from 2005 to 2008. As a player, he played for the Lakers' championship team in 1972. Regarded as one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time, Riley has won five NBA championships as a head coach, including four with the Los Angeles Lakers during their Showtime era in the 1980s and one with the Heat in 2006.
Riley was named NBA Coach of the Year three times (1989–90, 1992–93 and 1996–97, as head coach of the Lakers, New York Knicks and Heat, respectively). He was head coach of an NBA All-Star Game team nine times: eight times with the Western Conference team (1982, 1983, 1985–1990, all as head coach of the Lakers) and once with the Eastern team (1993, as head coach of the Knicks). He is the first North American sports figure to win a championship as a player, as an assistant coach, as a head coach, and as an executive, and in various roles has reached the NBA finals in six different decades. In 1996, he was named one of the 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA history. Riley most recently won the 2012 and 2013 NBA championships with the Heat as their team president. He received the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award from the NBA Coaches Association on June 20, 2012.
Riley was born in Rome, New York and raised in Schenectady, New York. His father, Leon Riley, played 22 seasons of minor league baseball as an outfielder and first baseman, and appeared in four games for the 1944 Philadelphia Phillies.
Riley played basketball for Linton High School in Schenectady, New York under head coach Walt Przybylo and his assistants Bill Rapavy and Ed Catino. Linton High School's 74–68 victory over New York City's Power Memorial on December 29, 1961, is remembered mostly for its two stars: Power Memorial's Lew Alcindor (who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar); and his future coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, Pat Riley. In 1991, Riley called it, "One of the greatest games in the history of Schenectady basketball."
Riley was a versatile athlete in college, participating in both basketball and football. As a junior on the 1965–66 Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball team he was named First Team All-SEC, All-NCAA Tournament Team, NCAA Regional Player of the Year, SEC Player of the Year and AP Third Team All-American, leading the Wildcats to the 1966 NCAA title game. Coached by Adolph Rupp, UK lost to Texas Western (today's UTEP), a game that was reenacted in the movie Glory Road. In his senior year Riley made First Team All-SEC, one of the only players in storied Kentucky Basketball history to make two or more First Team All-SEC teams.
He was selected by the San Diego Rockets in the 1st round of the 1967 NBA draft, and was also drafted as a wide receiver by the Dallas Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1967 NFL Draft. He joined the Rockets and was later selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1970 NBA expansion draft, but was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, which he helped toward the 1972 NBA Championship both by coming off the bench in games and by guarding friend and Laker guard Jerry West in practice. He retired after the 1975–76 NBA season as a member of the Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns.
Riley finished his NBA playing career with a 7.4 points per game scoring average and a field-goal percentage of 41.4%.
Coaching / Executive career
Los Angeles Lakers
Riley returned to the NBA in 1977 as a broadcaster for the Lakers. During the 1979–80 season, when the team's head coach, Jack McKinney, was injured during a near-fatal bicycle accident, assistant coach Paul Westhead took over the team's head coaching duties. Riley then moved from the broadcast booth to the bench as one of Westhead's assistant coaches. With rookie guard Magic Johnson and longtime star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers won the 1980 NBA Finals, defeating Philadelphia in six games, giving Westhead and Riley championship rings in their first year coaching the team. However, the team lost in the playoffs the next year to the Moses Malone-led Houston Rockets.
Six games into the 1981–82 season, Magic Johnson said he wished to be traded because he was unhappy playing for Westhead. Shortly afterward, Lakers' owner Jerry Buss fired Westhead. At an ensuing press conference, with Jerry West at his side, Buss named West head coach. West, however, balked, and Buss awkwardly tried to name West as "offensive captain" and then named West and Riley as co-coaches. West made it clear during the press conference that he would only assist Riley, and that Riley was the head coach. Thereafter, Riley was the interim head coach, until his status became permanent.
Riley ushered in the Lakers' "Showtime" era, along with superstar players Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar with their running game. Riley became a celebrity in his own right, a fashion icon for his Armani suits and slicked-back hair which complemented the team's Hollywood image.
Besides using Lakers' up-tempo style established by McKinney and Westhead, Riley was also innovative on defense; he was one of the first coaches to employ a 1-3-1 half-court trap to pick up the pace of the game. Though the Showtime Lakers were known for their offense, they won championships with their defense. In Cooper, they had one of the top defensive stoppers in the game. The league-wide perception was that the Lakers played with finesse and were not physical enough to win in the playoffs. Riley's mantra was "no rebounds, no rings", reinforcing the need to fight for rebounds in order to win championships.
Riley led the Lakers to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. His first title came in his first season, against the Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams returned to the Finals the next year, and this time Riley's Lakers were swept by the 76ers. The Lakers lost in the Finals again in 1984, to the Boston Celtics in seven games. The Lakers earned Riley his second NBA title in 1985 in a rematch of the previous year, as the Lakers beat the Celtics in six games. The Lakers' four-year Western Conference streak was broken the following year by the Houston Rockets.
In 1987, Riley coached a Lakers team that is considered one of the best teams of all-time. With future Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, plus Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, A. C. Green, Mychal Thompson, and Kurt Rambis, the Lakers finished 65–17 in the regular season, third-best in team history. They met with similar success in the playoffs, dispatching the Celtics in six games to win Riley his third NBA title.
One of Riley's most famous moments came when he guaranteed the crowd a repeat championship during the Lakers' championship parade in downtown Los Angeles (he first made the guarantee during the post-victory locker room celebration). While the 1988 Lakers did not produce as many wins in the regular season as the 1987 Lakers, they still won the NBA title, becoming the first team in 19 years to repeat as champions. The Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons in seven games in the 1988 NBA Finals, making good on Riley's promise. Riley's titles with the Lakers make him one of six men to play for an NBA Championship team and later coach the same NBA team to a championship; the others are George Senesky, Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K. C. Jones and Billy Cunningham.
Although Riley would offer no further guarantees, his Lakers embarked upon a quest to obtain a third consecutive championship in 1989. Having successfully claimed a repeat championship the year before, the term used for this new goal was a three-peat championship, and Riley, through his corporate entity, Riles & Co., trademarked the phrase three-peat. However, in a rematch of the previous year's finals series, the Lakers were swept by the Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals.
Riley was named NBA Coach of the Year for the first time in 1989–90, but stepped down as Lakers head coach after they lost to the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs. At the time of his departure, Riley was the foremost coach in the NBA with a level of fame not seen since Red Auerbach.
New York Knicks
Commentators admired Riley's ability to work with the physical, deliberate Knicks, adapting his "Showtime" style with the fast-paced Laker teams in the 1980s. The Chicago Bulls had easily swept the Knicks in 1991 en route to their first championship. However, in 1992, with Riley, the Knicks pushed the defending champion Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The physical defense of the Knicks against the Chicago Bulls' superstars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen during the 1992 playoffs led to a feud between Riley and Bulls head coach Phil Jackson regarding the officiating and the Knicks' rough style of play. In 1993, Riley led the Knicks to their best regular season record in team history (tied with the 1969–1970 team) and received his second Coach of the Year award. The Knicks again met the Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals but lost in six games after the winning the first two games at home. Jackson's Bulls that season went on to win the finals and accomplish a "three-peat," despite Riley's trademark in 1989.
Riley returned to the NBA Finals, in 1994, en route defeating the three-time defending champion Bulls (without Michael Jordan) in seven games during the Eastern Conference semifinals. However, New York lost in seven games to the Houston Rockets after being up 3–2 in the series. During the 1994 Finals, Riley became the first coach to participate in an NBA Finals Game 7 with two teams, having been with the Lakers in 1984 and 1988. However, he had the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first (and to date, only) coach to lose an NBA Finals Game 7 with two teams, having lost to the Celtics, in 1984. It also denied him the distinction of becoming the first coach to win a Game 7 in the Finals with two teams, having defeated the Pistons in seven games, in 1988.
In 1995, Riley resigned from the Knicks via fax to become president and head coach of the Miami Heat, with complete control over basketball operations. The move caused some controversy, as the Heat were accused by the Knicks of tampering by pursuing Riley while he still had a year remaining on his contract with the Knicks. The matter was settled after the Heat sent their 1996 first-round pick (which the Knicks used to draft Walter McCarty) and $1 million in cash to the Knicks on September 1, 1995. Riley's coaching of the Heat to playoff contention later made them bitter rivals with his former team.
In 1995–96, Riley led the Heat to a 10-game turnaround to finish 42–40. Miami was swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Phil Jackson-coached Chicago Bulls, who had completed the regular season with a record 72 wins, a record since broken by the 2015–16 Golden State Warriors. This season was most notable for the ongoing housecleaning that took place, with the arrival of building blocks Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. The off-season also brought them Nets forward P.J. Brown and Suns swingman Dan Majerle.
In 1997, Riley's Heat defeated his old team, the Knicks, in a physical seven game series. Advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history, they again proved no match for Jordan and the Bulls. Riley was selected as Coach of the Year for the third time however, after leading Miami to a 61–21 regular season record for first place in the Atlantic division.
The Heat compiled consecutive seasons over .600. However, the 1998, 1999, and 2000 playoffs were disappointments, as they lost to the arch-rival Knicks; the first two in the opening round and the latter in the second round. In 1999, the Knicks themselves reached the Finals.
Riley then traded Brown and Jamal Mashburn in exchange for Eddie Jones in one trade and acquired Brian Grant in another, although the team suffered a major setback after Alonzo Mourning was lost for the season due to a kidney ailment. After finishing 50–32 in the 2000–01 season, the Heat were swept by the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Heat then lost two of their best players when guard Tim Hardaway was traded to the Dallas Mavericks and Anthony Mason signed with the Milwaukee Bucks. In part because of these departures, the Heat finished 36–46 in 2002–the first time that a Riley-coached team had not had a winning season or made the playoffs. Riley was so disgusted with the Heat's performance that he declared he was about to "fire himself".
After finishing the 2002–03 season 25–57, Riley stepped down as head coach and was succeeded by longtime assistant Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy and rookie Dwyane Wade, whom Riley drafted 5th overall, led the Heat back into the playoffs with a 42–40 record after starting 0–7. Riley concentrated on improving the team even further before the 2004–2005 season. One of his biggest moves was to trade Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Lamar Odom and a first-round draft pick to the Lakers for Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal had just come off a successful stint with the Phil Jackson-coached Lakers, winning three straight championships from 2000–02 and a 2004 Finals loss. By this time, Riley and Jackson's feud had cooled. Wade and O'Neal led the Heat to the Eastern Conference finals during the 2005 playoffs, although they lost to the defending champions Detroit Pistons after being up 3–2 in the series. Wade had missed game 6 entirely due to injury.
During the 2005 off-season, it was widely speculated that Riley was attempting to run Van Gundy out of his coaching job and take over the job himself, now that the team was in a position to contend for the championship. Indeed, Van Gundy resigned from his position as head coach on December 12, 2005, just 21 games into the season, citing a need to spend more time with his family, and Riley resumed coaching the team. Riley's Heat team defeated the Detroit Pistons in the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals on June 2, 2006, making it the first time the Miami Heat reached the finals. Riley's Heat squared off against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals. Despite losing the first two games to Dallas, the Heat rallied to win the next four games and their first NBA Championship. After Game Six, Riley commented that he had packed one suit, one shirt and one tie for the trip to Dallas. It was Riley's fifth championship as a head coach, and his first with a team other than the Lakers. Riley became one of only two NBA coaches to take three teams to the NBA Finals, the other being Alex Hannum. He joined Hannum and Phil Jackson as the only head coaches to lead two teams to NBA titles. He also became the only coach to twice replace a coach in mid-season and take that team to an NBA title.
Citing hip and knee problems, Riley took a leave of absence from coaching from January 3, 2007, through February 19, 2007. Assistant coach Ron Rothstein assumed interim duties. The Heat finished the season 44–38 and were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Chicago Bulls; the first defending champions to be swept in the first round since 1957.
The following season, the Heat finished 15–67. The team had lost several of its players to extended injuries, and a disgruntled Shaquille O'Neal was traded mid-season. Two years after winning the championship, they finished with one of the worst records of all time. On April 28, 2008, Riley announced that he would step down as coach of the Heat. Former Heat assistant Erik Spoelstra was announced as his replacement. Riley remains team president. Although the Heat have nominally had a general manager for most of Riley's tenure as team president, Riley has had the final say in basketball matters since his arrival in Miami.
As president, Riley acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh to form the Heat's "Big Three" with Dwyane Wade, which reached four straight NBA Finals from 2011-14. In 2012, the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder to give Riley his first championship purely as an executive. The Heat repeated the feat in 2013, defeating the San Antonio Spurs.
In the 2019-2020 season, the Heat became the fourth team in NBA history to finish lower than fourth in their conference in the regular season, and make it to the NBA Finals. The others being the 1994–95 Houston Rockets, the 1980–81 Houston Rockets, and the 1998–99 New York Knicks. The 2019-20 Heat has been considered by some to be Riley's "magnum opus", since it was accomplished without a dramatic rebuild nor having the luxury of a Draft pick higher than No. 10 overall. Riley traded for Jimmy Butler, drafted Tyler Herro, signed undrafted Kendrick Nunn, and then before the 2019-20 trade deadline the Heat received Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. Facing Riley's former team, the Los Angeles Lakers who were led by former Heat superstar LeBron James. The Heat lost to the Lakers in six games with James winning his fourth Finals MVP.
Outside basketball, Riley has developed into a pop culture figure. This is born out of Riley's signature look, a slicked-back hairstyle, which is often described as gangster-or mafioso-like, and his immaculate tan. Riley’s nickname is “The Godfather” because of his appearance. He came to the public eye leading the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s, furthering his image by "guaranteeing" a championship.
In 1988, Riley published a book entitled Showtime: Inside the Lakers' Breakthrough Season, a New York Times best seller which recapped the Lakers' successful run to the 1987 NBA Championship. One of the phrases Riley coined in the book was the "Disease of More", stating that "success is often the first step toward disaster" and that defending champions often fail the following season because every player who returns wants more playing time, more shots per game, and more money. The phrase stemmed from the Lakers' disappointing 1980–81 campaign coming off a championship the previous season.
In 1993, while coaching the New York Knicks, Riley published a second New York Times bestseller entitled The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players. Aimed at a business leadership as well as basketball enthusiasts, it distilled a lesson in teamwork and leadership from each of Riley's seasons as a coach to that date. Byron Laursen, saluted by Riley as "...a true Showtime Warrior", co-authored both of Riley's books.
Riley is also a motivational speaker during the off-season. Riley earns in excess of $50,000 for each speaking engagement.
Riley and his wife Chris have two children, James and Elisabeth. Riley is a practicing Roman Catholic.
On February 27, 2007, the Miami Heat were honored for their 2005–2006 NBA Championship at the White House. During the ceremony, Riley presented George W. Bush with a jersey before announcing, "I voted for the man. If you don't vote, you don't count." After the ceremony, Riley was questioned by reporters about the political nature of his comments. He responded by saying, "I'm pro-American, pro-democracy, I'm pro-government. I follow my boss. He's my boss."
Riley and his wife are Bruce Springsteen fans. At his 2008 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he ended his speech with a quote from the Springsteen song "Back in Your Arms Again".
NBA playing statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|†||Won an NBA championship|
- Regular season
College playing statistics
|Regular season||G||Games coached||W||Games won||L||Games lost||W–L %||Win–loss %|
|Playoffs||PG||Playoff games||PW||Playoff wins||PL||Playoff losses||PW–L %||Playoff win–loss %|
Awards and honors
- Nine-time NBA Champion (one as a player, one as an assistant coach, five as a head coach, and two as an executive)
- Three-time NBA Coach of the Year
- Nine-time NBA All-Star Game head coach
- 2011 NBA Executive of the Year
- Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (class of 2008)
- 1966 First Team All-American
- 2012 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award
- Number 42 retired by the Kentucky Wildcats