Pat Riley: “I’m Very Optimistic About What’s Ahead of Us”

Alonzo Mourning, Pat Riley
Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein
by Joe Beguiristain

With the HEAT’s unprecedented bubble run now in the rearview mirror, HEAT President Pat Riley spoke to the media on Friday afternoon via Zoom about the journey, the people that made it happen, his outlook for the future and much more.

Check out some notable quotes below.

On this past season and his outlook moving forward

“I really want to thank Eric Amsler, Chet Kammerer and Adam Simon, our scouting staff, all those guys that go out and search down, hunt down talent for the Miami HEAT. I take very little credit for that. I just want to thank them so much for being able to fill up the cupboard with young talent. And from that standpoint, thanking Jimmy Butler for coming here and from that point, it was all up to Spo.

Spo and his staff put together, I think, a great program, and his leadership, his mentoring, not only teaching players what it was about to play for the Miami HEAT, how they had to conduct themselves, I think, in practice and off the court, on the court. His staff’s incredible. Jay Sabol, all of the people last year who contributed to what ended up in the Finals for us, just two games short of winning the championship. I just can’t thank them enough, especially when the season was postponed…Spo and his staff and Jay and all the logistic coordinators that ended up in the bubble put together an incredible program to get us ready for the bubble…it was a great year [for] our scouting staff, our coaching staff, our training staff, our players, especially Udonis Haslem as a leader in the locker room. Making the trade for Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala and Solomon Hill, having that veteran leadership. We ended up having a great, great season. I was very disappointed, as I think a lot of other people were, that we couldn’t finish the year with the championship, but I feel so good about this team and where we’re going and what’s ahead of us…the cupboard is more full than ever. We have six first-round picks in the next eight years. We have three second-round picks, one that is owed to us by another team. So, we have a lot of assets, we have a lot of very good young players, we have great veteran leadership and talent. And I’m very optimistic about what’s ahead of us.”

On what the future holds with the draft, free agency, etc.

“I think this year, with what happened with our team, it really doesn’t change my thought process about, ‘Ok, let’s go for it now, again.’ I think we’ll stay the course with our picks, stay the course with our young players. We have decisions to make, obviously, with player contracts and free agents, and really do a deep dive into this season, myself and Spo and Andy [Elisburg] about how good we really are right now…flexibility with draft picks, free agency is coming next…and my thinking really hasn’t changed. But when I say next thing, if there’s a next thing that presents itself that can really take us to maybe another level talent-wise, then I’m open to it.”

“From a practical standpoint, regardless of what the numbers are, we know what our priorities are. And it is to take care of the players that we have that we have to make decisions on almost immediately with our young guys…it’s going to be a little bit dicey for us because of wanting that flexibility, but if things can happen prior to that, I think, we have to take care of our own as much as we can, but we don’t want to surrender that opportunity if it’s there, so those are the discussions that Andy and I and Nick [Arison] are having right now, and Spo, about it.”

On the job Erik Spoelstra did this past season

“Spo was the Coach of the Year for me, and it’s not denigrating anybody else who won it…he’s a Coach of the Year, he’s a coach of a decade, he will be a Hall of Famer one day. Spo’s not a give-me-the-credit kind of guy…he’s a very humble guy. He’s a workaholic. He’s a great coach. I think he proved it this season with a lot of new faces early…we were 12 deep…he’s great with the chemistry and keeping guys alive and at the same time involved. And so, that’s one of the most difficult things that I think a coach can do. We know what he is. I know what he is. I know what his value is…he’s about winning. That’s it. And that’s what makes him happy. But he had a great year, and I had nothing to do with anything up in the bubble. Those men and women that were there on our behalf for three months put together a program that ended up almost getting us a championship, so that’s what he deserves credit for.”

On Tyler Herro’s improvement in the bubble

“Oh, he just got better…he grew through listening, and he grew through the mentorship of Udonis [Haslem], Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragić, all of those guys. And the ones, especially, that came midseason, Andre and Solo [Solomon Hill], and Kelly [Olynyk] and Meyers [Leonard]. All of these veterans took him under their wing because they saw something special there. And he got better, not just as a shooter, but as a shot maker. He got better in handling the ball…so he’s a very, very efficient offensive player. He got better as a playmaker. His vision, he started to see other plays because he could take it to the rack. And he’s a great kid. He works hard, and we have somebody very special in him. So, his improvement, I think, will even go to another level as he gets older.”

On Jimmy Butler’s Finals performance

“Jimmy is Superman. The two games that he had [in Games 3 and 5] were two of the best games ever that I’ve seen in the Finals. The two triple-doubles to get us there, playing 47, 48 minutes.”

On how long he wants to remain in his current role

“I love this. I love this team. This is one of my favorite teams now, so I’m here as long as Micky [Arison] wants me here and Nick. I have a great relationship with Micky and now Nick, the CEO. Andy and I are fused at the hip, think alike, talk alike, we know what has to be done. To have Andy is incredible for me, and to be able to manage Spo, this is a dream for me this late.”

On his relationship with Jimmy and if Jimmy is a “whale” or an “orca”

“Jimmy is a different kind of person, and my relationship with him this year would be one that’s outside of the box because I don’t want to get in the way of what Erik Spoelstra is teaching him and his coaching staff. So, we do talk, and we text. They’re short. He’s our leader. He’s our best player, so I don’t really want to interfere on that basis every single night, texting guys…as long as he taps and throws me a heart back, then I’m cool. But we’ve had some good conversations, and those conversations are around what he does. He’s a competitor, he works hard, he’s in great shape. I think he loves it here…I think you can form a real bond sometimes with body language, with silence, with nods from my seat to the court without having to have long conversations with these guys, so I love Jimmy Butler.”

“Jimmy is a whale or an orca. And he’s great for us to have as somebody that other players can look at and say, ‘Well, I want to be somewhere like that where I feel that way about the team and feel that way about the city.’ And Jimmy’s very sincere, and we’re fortunate to have him…I have not ever witnessed a player that good, who can do so many things and be that unselfish and not care about whether he gets 10 or 40 [points] or a triple-double or single digits. He just wants to win, and that’s what you want. And he knows when you have to take it to another level, he’s capable of taking it to another level…he just takes over. You need players like that in this league to advance far, and we’re glad to have him. We’d like to have some more, if we can find them.”

On Bam Adebayo’s ascension and what he sees for him in the future

“He’s a multifaceted player right now, and his game needs to expand and it will expand because he is a player that’s going to work at it. So, we know what he can do. And I don’t think Erik Spoelstra would have put him in the situations as a main trigger man in our offense as a Point Center unless he had great confidence in his ability to handle the ball and make plays as a passer. He didn’t do that his rookie year. He didn’t do half of the things that he does now, and that’s just through steady work and growth, development, confidence. When you talk about practice, practice, practice, practice, practice…it gives you confidence. Practice gives you confidence. When you prepare, you become confident in what you do out there. And so, Bam will practice, and he will get better. Erik will expand his game, and I think he’ll become better in all facets of the game.”

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