South Florida sports fans are particularly sensitive about this stuff.
After all, they thought they had a championship coach for the Miami Dolphins when Nick Saban signed on in 2005. He started slow that first season, but won his last six behind Gus Frerotte, signed Daunte Culpepper and seemed poised for greatness until that season soured. Then, toward the end, with rumors swirling, Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde had the guts to ask him flat out if he would be going to the Crimson Tide.
And you recall the answer…
11 years ago today.
— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) December 21, 2017
Soon after, Saban was the Alabama coach.
With all those championships.
Recently, as the Los Angeles Lakers have continued to melt down — they’re interviewing Ty Lue for head coach, for bleep’s sake — Pat Riley’s name has been linked on social media to them again. Yes, that Pat Riley. The Heat-president-since-1995-Pat Riley.
Riley, of course, made his name with the Lakers, sort of as a player — and Jerry West’s practice dummy — and then as a broadcaster and the slicked back savant of Showtime. He also stumbled into a discussion about returning in 2004, before Jerry Buss ended up sending him Shaquille O’Neal instead. Jerry has passed, but his daughter Jeanie is trying to recreate the past, and so the reunion story won’t go away. Especially now that Magic Johnson has gone, to tweet inanities instead. And especially since it appears that LeBron James and Riley have patched things some, after Riley was red hot about him for the past few years, and James was annoyed by Riley continuing to mention him.
Riley’s been making overtures like this one (see link).
Oh, and there was this…
Riley & LeBron were reunited after Wade’s final game in Brooklyn 😓 pic.twitter.com/93OKDmb2PD
— 𝙃𝙀𝘼𝙏 𝙉𝘼𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉 (@HeatvsHaters) April 14, 2019
That’s why I felt the need to get Riley on the record about the Lakers, and his own future.
Here it was, Saturday:
— Clay Ferraro (@ClayWPLG) April 19, 2019
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 13, 2019
But you knew it wouldn’t end there. Not with Riley in Malibu already for much of the summer. Not with ESPN’s ridiculous obsession over the Lakers, above all teams currently in the playoffs. Not with it possibly serving his interests to make the Heat, um, sweat a little, as the succession plan still needs to take shape.
Stephen A Smith on Lakers owner Jeanie Buss being interested in hiring Pat Riley to replace Magic Johnson pic.twitter.com/AWtVNWZj43
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 19, 2019
So Jeannie wants him back?
That’s not a surprise.
But if Riley goes now, he’s at risk of Saban-ing himself.
Yes, there is an infinitely greater record of goodwill here. Saban was 15-17. Riley has won three championships, and made the playoffs 80 percent of the time.
That, though, is why it will hurt some fans more.
Especially after Riley ripped LeBron for taking off.