Pat Riley’s Mistakes and His New Vow

News3 years ago5 min readGiancarlo Navas

“We are going to figure it out. Whether you believe me or not.”

The once infallible Godfather, Pat Riley, has legitimate doubters.

The post-Chris-Bosh-blood-clot Miami Heat have a 124-122 record and a +1.1 net rating in their last three seasons. Mediocre, mundane and static. So on Saturday afternoon for what felt like the first time in half a decade, Riley was self reflective and candid about his mistakes.

He finally identified there was a problem and he needed to fix it.

“This team did not come together like I thought it would,” Riley said to a audience of reporters.

He believed they could be as high as a four seed in the Eastern Conference

“I’m disappointed in myself.”

His missteps since 30-11 are well documented but for the first time there appears to be a plan and public agency. No one in sports has eternal goodwill, no matter how many parades they bring. And, as the noise of bloated contracts and players got louder and louder with only one playoff win, the genuflecting at the altar of Riley seems over.

People want answers.  

“I have some big picture ideas already written down,” Riley said, alluding to his plan of going to Malibu with a horde of notebooks. “(GM) Andy and I will decide whether they’re worth chasing or not. There will be some change next year.”

Change is all the fan-base can hope for because, finally, it feels like Miami has a young core to build around. Justise Winslow has had a breakout season and wants to be a leader for the Heat, Bam Adebayo is looking like the perfect rim rolling, switching, passing center that any team would want and Josh Richardson is the essential three and D player every elite team has in its lineup or rotation.

Their base is established and even Riley acknowledged it. What they need now are stars. The Heat are in cap hell, but a few things could break their way to suddenly become players in a loaded Free Agency class this summer.

Hassan Whiteside ($27 million) and Goran Dragic ($19 million) could opt out of their respective player options this summer creating only $15 million in cap space. The Heat owe $140 in salary for the 2019-2020 season and they will need creative accounting to make a max slot for the likes of Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard or even Kevin Durant.

Ryan Anderson and his $21 million could be waived and stretched to give the Heat an extra $10 million in cap space or with a first round pick could be moved, giving Miami enough for a single max slot. Other options would be sending first round picks packaged with two of Dion Waiters, James Johnson or Kelly Olynyk (please don’t be Kelly Pat) in addition to the waiving and stretching of Anderson. For a veteran of seven to nine years a max contract is close to $33 million.

It’s a lot to do and the situation to even create one is bleak and most probably, not likely. But Riley’s words, “we are going to figure it out. Whether you believe me or not,” sounded louder than anything this weekend. The earned mythology of “Closer” and “Godfather” is running on fumes as fans get impatient. Another year of a .500 basketball and a neutral net rating isn’t good enough and there will be no #OneLastDance next season to soften the noise of an exasperated fan base.   

Riley understands he needs stars, he understands that he greatly mis-evaluated what this team was and he finally said it. With Riley the public acceptance is usually the first step, it was with Dwyane Wade and his return home and if history is any indicator, it will repeat itself here.

It’s an uphill battle to be players in this free agency period, but Miami will have tools to get there, as long of a shot as that is. It will take the moving of deals and reshuffling of assets to make this work, but Riley appears to be confident. He scoffed at the idea that “that we can’t get out of certain contracts.”

“We have done this since 1995,” Riley said. “I don’t want to sit here for 30 minutes and give you a litany of the transactions.”

Nor need he. He just needs to make another somehow. Riley is well aware of his critics and detractors. He knows he has done it before, but maybe for the first time in his Miami tenure the belief in him is minimal.

“We are going to figure it out. Whether you believe me or not.”

Those are the words that will echo into one of Miami’s most important off-seasons in some time. There are no dances left to be danced and no more diversions from the reality of their mediocrity. The infallible Godfather once again has to create a miracle, only this time to correct his unexpected, uncharacteristic errors.Giancarlo Navas (@GNavas103), the host of Miami Heat Beat, may have cried a few hundred times during #OneLastDance.