Six months after rumors swirled that Miami Heat president Pat Riley would fire head coach Erik Spoelstra and assume the job himself, Riley finally pulled the trigger today and announced that he will lead the Heat in the NBA Finals.
"You don't have success in this business by making rash decisions," said Riley. "Yes, there was an urge to let Erik go back in late November when we were 9-8, but I felt that now was the better time to make the move."
Spoelstra loses his job after helping the Heat run through the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 12-3 record. But it wasn't enough for Riley.
"He said something about how we could have been undefeated and that perfection is the goal," said Spoelstra. "But I think he was mainly just trying to cover his ass for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Everyone knows how much he wants another NBA title on his coaching resume. I've assumed this was coming ever since he moved into my office during our 12-game winning streak during the regular season. I am very proud of what I've done with this team, considering that I've been watching film and meeting with players in a small equipment closet near the arena service elevator since January."
Riley insists his ego is not the reason for the decision.
"I just happen to have a track record of success in the NBA Finals," he said. "And I think my unique skill set can get the best out of Lebron and Wade and Bosh and … whatever the names are of the other guys on the team. I think there's a Chad maybe? No? Whatever. It doesn't matter. We're four games away and I can almost taste it."
And while he is excited to coach the Heat in the Finals, Riley says it will be the last games of his coaching career.
"I will be looking for a young, talented coach to take this team over next year," said Riley. "I think Erik Spoelstra is a good candidate. I imagine having the team torn away from him like this on the brink of a championship will make him very motivated."