Pat Riley Knows a Lot About Basketball


John Hollinger hails the “de-Rileyization of the game” as one of the best NBA trends of the decade:

In a response to the increasingly rough tactics of the 1990s, personified by the brutish style that Pat Riley’s teams employed in New York and Miami, the league enforced handchecking rules and made other modifications to open up the floor. The result was a much-more-entertaining style of play and a rebound for the post-Jordan NBA in the second half of the decade. Ironically, Riley stumbled upon the one player best suited for the new rules (Dwyane Wade) and won a championship with him in 2006.

I basically agree, but I don’t think “ironically” is really the best way to look at this. One thing that’s noteworthy about Riley is that while he adopted a very distinctive and much-loathed style in the 1990s, he’s not at all dogmatic about it. That’s not how he coached the Lakers in the 1980s and when the rules changed and it ceased to be the most effective way to run a basketball team he swiftly built a team around a perimeter slasher who thrives in the current system. Some guys, like Don Nelson or Larry Brown, seem monomaniacal about their particular basketball concept. Riley, by contrast, seems to have a very realistic view of the landscape and adapts what he’s doing to the situation.