Behind every championship contender is a great blueprint. And behind every team’s blueprint is an equally great architect.
For the Miami Heat, that brilliant mind is Pat Riley. He’s also one of the modern day pioneers of how coaches transition from patrolling the sidelines to being personnel builders. And that is exactly why we heard reports — over the summer — of Flip Saunders seeking a Riles “godfather-style” deal in Minnesota and Phil Jackson wanting something similar to occupy Wall Street, or better yet Madison Avenue.
Like Riley, the goal for Saunders and the Zen Master was simple: become an executive and prove that you could transition into shaping an organization that you previously had a bond with — whether through coaching or playing. Saunders was able to do so; Jackson is likely up next.
But who knows if James Dolan will give him the type of control that he needs. That Riley-type of authority to sign and release the guys he wants with little input from the owner, besides who could end up a tax casualty, is rare. He has the type of power to come down and coach a championship team only to then head back upstairs and name his successor.
It remains to be seen if Dolan has any of Miami’s owner Micky Arison in him or if Jackson even has the ability to make the New York Knicks’ trash look like another team’s treasure — the way Riley did during the Heat’s three rebuilding processes.
Either way, it would be fun to see two rivals — with Los Angeles Lakers and Knicks ties — competing to see which players would give up money to work with whose set of rings. Riley nine — Jackson 13. Those are their player, coaching and front office totals.
Riley put a great team together in Miami that has brought the organization two NBA championships and you can see them on the quest for a third by getting your Heat tickets here.