A Tribute to Thunder, Part 3

Talking with Riles

Posted: April 8, 2002

In the third segment of the KTAR 620 Sportsline, Brad Cesmat played a pre-recored interview with Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, one of the NBA's biggest Dan Majerle fans...

Cesmat: A week and a half from now, Dan Majerle will be in a stage of retirement in his career after 14 seasons in the NBA and a great career with the Phoenix Suns. But there was that time when he wasnít a member of the Suns. He went to Cleveland and then went to Miami. When you talk to Dan about his years in Miami, he talks very fondly about them and very fondly about our next guest, the president and coach of the Miami Heat, Pat Riley joins us tonight for our tribute to Dan Majerle. Pat, thanks for being on board.

Riley: Well, thank you very much. You know, those coaches and general managers that were a part of when Dan Majerle wasnít in Phoenix, probably should be hung in effigy in Scottsdale somewhere (laughs), because thatís probably one of the reasons they didnít win a championship. I say that in jest, but he was truly, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable players Iíve ever been around.

Cesmat: What set him apart for you, Pat, because thatís such a big statement. Youíve coached so many great players through the years. What set Dan Majerle apart?

Riley: I remember my first year watching him, his first year as a rookie back when he came to Phoenix out of a small school. He was highly touted in college, but I donít think anybody really looked at him as somebody that was going to turn out to be a great NBA player. The very first day I ever watched Dan play, I said, ďThis guys is just going to fit in. Heís going to fit in anywhere. Heís going to play multiple positions.Ē There are times he can play at the power forward spot. When he was younger, he had quickness, he had great leaping ability, he could really shoot the ball. But probably more than anything else, he was one of the smartest players that ever came down the pike. He really knew how to play the game. He applied whatever techniques as a coach that you were trying to teach him, not only individually, how to defend people or how to drive people, but how to play in a system. He was just a delight. I mean, he would come and ďWhat do you want me to do?Ē That was it and most of the time in the NBA you donít get that kind of attitude from players. So heís one of the all-time great players, one of the all-time great team players and really made our team successful here.

Cesmat: I know when the Suns were down in Florida earlier this year the fans gave him a rousing ovation. The love affair between Dan Majerle and the people in South Florida, can you talk about that a little bit.

Riley: Well, I think people relate to him just as they did in Phoenix. I mean, when he left Phoenix there had to be a groundswell of disappointment, because I think people relate to work ethic, labor-oriented guys, who are good in the community and are great team players. I think thatís what he had here. When Dan came here, we were building this team that we had here for four or five years with Dan, and he became an integral part of it. Everybody in Miami that were season ticket holders and fans down here, they saw that. He made it all work. I began to use the word facilitator. You know, somebody who can facilitate, to spark, to ignite, to get things moving. Any time we needed something done, he was right in the middle of trying to accomplish that.

The flagship station of Your Phoenix Suns.
You know, when I signed him, at that particular time we were going through this Juwan Howard thing and Juwan was taken away from us, and we had some money left over and cap room. Dan came to us a little bit late in that summer of free agency, but it was one of the best acquisitions this franchise ever made.

Cesmat: Was there a moment or a game that stands out in Dan Majerleís run down there with you in Florida.

Riley: I just think he was my kind of player. He had these wars every single year with all of the best perimeter players in the Eastern Conference. Every night he was matched up with the best player and he did a great job on all of them. I just remember the years that we would play against the Knicks and every night all through the playoffs, he would be right there with Allan Houston. He had Houston going at him, him going at Allan Houston, never give or take and it was remarkable because it was so unlike the players today. All of those years, they never spoke to one another. They never said one word to each other on the court. They didnít trash each other. They didnít get into each otherís faces. They respectively got into this war. Every single night Dan tried to stop him and Houston tried to beat him. It was one of the best encounters Iíve ever seen.

I just remember those kinds of things. I remember him making shots that won games for us and guys running and jumping on top of Dan. But I remember if you gave him an assignment, thatís what he would do. Thatís how Iíll always remember Dan, as somebody who was simply one of the most coachable players in the NBA.

Cesmat: Before I let you go, do you have any last words for Dan Majerle?

Riley: Well, I think he can still play. I know heís going to retire in Phoenix and go to his restaurants and all of that stuff, and he and Tina are going to raise those wonderful kids. Heís going to play a lot of golf and one day heís going to want to get back in the game, but I donít want him in as a coach. I want him to come back as a player. Even though he says he canít play anymore, I donít think thereís any doubt that in the right situation he could help teams. So, I wish Dan nothing but the best, he and his family nothing but the best. But if this is his wish (to retire), he will go down in the minds of a lot of people, I know the people in Phoenix, as one of the great NBA players of all time.

Cesmat: That was Pat Riley earlier this afternoon. Youíve got a big old grin on your face.

Majerle: You know, that was great. I have so much respect for that guy, because of the type of person he is and what heís done in his career, not only as a player but mostly as a coach. And to hear those kinds of words, it makes me smile, because I know what kind of effort he puts into his job and how much he believes in basketball and what he wants to do. For him to say nice things like that to me makes it all worthwhile.

Click here for part four of the Tribute to Thunder, featuring former Suns Joe Kleine and Charles Barkley.

All-Stars on Nash

Various NBA All-Stars including Blake Griffin and Kevin Love discuss the play of the 38-year-old Steve Nash

Stars Discuss Markieff Morris

Colleagues discuss the solid play of Suns rookie Markieff Morris during All-Star Weekend in Orlando

Young Guards on Nash

Guards including Derrick Rose and Deron Williams discuss the play of Suns playmaker Steve Nash.

Markieff Morris Talks Rising Stars

Suns rookie Markieff Morris discusses his experience playing in the Rising Skills Challenge on Friday night