Heat coach Van Gundy resigns
MIAMI -- Pat Riley is again the coach of the Miami Heat, replacing Stan Van Gundy following his resignation Monday for family reasons.
Riley, whom Van Gundy succeeded on the bench shortly before the 2003-04 season, will make his debut Tuesday night when Miami opens a four-game road trip in Chicago.
"I will get back into this quickly," said Riley, the 60-year-old team president. He said he hasn't even looked at a playbook for two years.
Riley coached the team from 1995-03 after winning four titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and a stint with the New York Knicks.
Players were not available for immediate comment. The team left for Chicago on Monday, shortly before the news conference announcing the shake-up and learning of Van Gundy's decision.
Van Gundy said he resigned voluntarily.
"I made this decision for one reason and one reason only: I love my family," Van Gundy said. He said that because of travel, games and practices, he would have seen his children at home only 49 days out of 170 this season.
"That's just not enough any more for me. It's just not enough," Van Gundy said. "I mean, it's been like that for my kids' entire lives. I've got a 14-year-old daughter and it started to hit me when I started thinking about her birthday, which was last month. I've got four more years left with her. Four. And then she'll be off to college and I'm just not willing to sacrifice any more of those four more years."
Riley's eyes welled with tears as Van Gundy announced the reasons for his decision. Van Gundy said Riley has tried for weeks to persuade him to stay.
"It came down to a choice, and for me, the choice was clear," Van Gundy said.
He said he will remain in the organization, and insisted he had no desire to coach elsewhere in the NBA.
Van Gundy's job status was the subject of speculation in South Florida for months, starting when Riley -- his mentor -- said shortly after the Heat's 2005 playoff run ended that he may take a larger role in the team's day-to-day operations.
That comment, which seemed innocuous at the time, set off speculation that Riley was planning to dismiss Van Gundy and take over a team with two of the NBA's biggest stars, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade, in his quest to bring the Heat their first title.
This year, the team was in first place but with only a 11-10 record, although without O'Neal for 18 of those games because the 12-time All-Star had a badly sprained right ankle. Rumors that Van Gundy's job may be in jeopardy continued to swirl. But Van Gundy insisted Monday his relationship with Riley has never been better.
The 46-year-old Van Gundy left with a regular-season record of 112-73. Riley has won 1,110 games in 21 seasons as a coach, plus led the "Showtime" Lakers of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to titles in 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988. He also coached the Knicks (1991-95).
Van Gundy was Riley's top assistant for eight seasons, getting the top job shortly before the 2003-04 campaign when Riley walked into his office unexpectedly and told him he was stepping aside.
And now, in a move perhaps not so unexpected but certainly just as sudden, Van Gundy is gone, hours after leading the Heat to an overtime win over Washington on Sunday night.
The move came nearly four years to the day after Jeff Van Gundy, Stan's younger brother, resigned as Knicks coach 19 games into the 2001-02 season. Jeff Van Gundy, now the Houston Rockets coach, said at the time he'd lost his focus and thought about quitting since that summer.
"The question I've always had for him is 'why did you go back,' " Stan Van Gundy said.
Through a Rockets' spokesman, Jeff Van Gundy declined comment Monday.
Before coming to the Heat, Van Gundy had college stints at Vermont, Castleton State, Canisius, Fordham, Massachusetts-Lowell and Wisconsin. When Riley joined the Heat, Van Gundy came with him -- in large part because his brother was under contract to the Knicks and couldn't stay on Riley's staff.
His first season as head coach didn't get off to a good start, with the Heat losing Van Gundy's first seven games. But with Wade leading a talented nucleus of young players, Miami finished that season 42-40 and as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
That summer, Riley sent three players to Los Angeles for O'Neal -- part of three championships with the Lakers. Van Gundy coached the Heat to a second consecutive season of a 17-win improvement, getting them to 59-23 and guiding them to the Southeast Division title and to the East finals.
Riley went to Los Angeles on a recent road trip for three reasons, two being to visit a hip replacement clinic and for a meeting with city commissioners in Malibu to gain approval for a home he plans to build.
The third reason, he said, was a final pitch designed to keep the coach. But he couldn't change Van Gundy's mind.
"I have an obligation to this franchise and to Micky," Riley said, referring to team owner Micky Arison. "I am going to definitely put off my hip replacement surgery, without a doubt."
I think this is a good move for the Heat. I've got nothing against Van Gundy, but there's no comparison between him and Riley as coaches.