Pat Riley is a name that is synonymous with the Miami Heat organization for almost three decades now. Riley started off with the Heat as head coach and president in 1995 and has played a big role in all three championships that the franchise has won since then.
After the NBA announced that Zach Kleiman of the Memphis Grizzlies was voted as the Executive of the Year, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had a lot to say in praise of Riley as he spoke before Game 6 of their Conference semi-finals against the Sixers:
"Pat is on the Mount Rushmore of executives. He should always be in that consideration, every single year. Because he kind of sets the blueprint and he's been able to do it so many different times. And then do it when people think that you can't."
It is a bold claim, but it is also hard to argue against it. Riley has once again built up a roster capable of contending for the title as the Heat finished with the best record in the East and they have a shot at advancing to their second NBA Finals in the last three seasons.
Despite all his success, Riley has only ever won Executive of the Year once, back in 2011 after orchestrating moves for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, which eventually led to titles in 2012 and 2013. He has also served as a mentor for many young executives, something that Spoelstra was keen to point out:
"How many guys has Pat mentored? I'm in there all the time where somebody will be calling him about advice. And Pat, they don't have recognition like this, but if they ever did, he easily could be Hall of Fame in both — as a coach in this league and as an executive on its own. That's how good he is."
Spoelstra also has a good idea as to why Riley has had such prolonged success in a league that has changed so much since he took over in the 1990s.
"Pat's a visionary. He's a force of nature. He has 50 years of experience in this league at the highest level. And has had as much success in this league as anyone. He has a blueprint, he has a way of making things happen, but he's also adapted and adjusted. You don't have this kind of success if you haven't adapted over the years. I think that's one of the things that gets overlooked a lot. He's reinvented how we do it and how we put together teams, over and over and over, depending on the era."
While there is no doubt that Riley would appreciate such high praise from Spoelstra, there is something that he'd appreciate a lot more, which is his 4th NBA championship with the Heat. They have a pretty good shot at it too, as they await the winner of the Bucks-Celtics series.