By Dr. Jack Ramsay
Still waiting for a parade
I'm sorry to see Stan Van Gundy step down as coach of the Heat. In the 2¼ seasons that he was in charge at Miami, Van Gundy established himself as a very capable NBA coach.
He was the first coach in league history to advance his team's record by 15 or more games in consecutive seasons. He took over a team in disarray (25-57 in 2003) and led it to the playoffs with a 42-40 record. Last season, the Heat finished 59-23 and advanced to the Conference Finals. He received my vote for Coach of the Year honors.
This season, Van Gundy's Heat struggled to attain consistency with a roster that included additions at five key positions: forwards Antoine Walker, James Posey and Jason Kapono; and guards Jason Williams and Gary Payton.
None of that group performed up to expectations. Shaquille O'Neal missed 18 of 21 games due to injury, adding to the turmoil. And even phenom Dwyane Wade, while averaging 27.3 ppg, is shooting a miserable 7.7 percent from 3-point land and demonstrates a tendency to turn the ball over too frequently.
Only Alonzo Mourning, O'Neal's backup, is carrying the load expected of him. So Van Gundy steps aside with the Heat's record at 11-10, and in first place in the weak Southeast Division.
Enter team president-coach Pat Riley, assuming again the role he held before Van Gundy's brief tenure. Riley indicated last spring that he was again interested in returning to the coaching bench, but squelched reports that he was replacing Van Gundy imminently.
Riley had a great run as coach of the LA Lakers from 1982-1990, winning four NBA championships. He moved to New York in 1992 where his Knicks teams won three division titles and reached the NBA Finals once over a four-year period.
He came to Miami in 1995 with much fanfare and a promise to lead a championship parade down Biscayne Boulevard. The Heat won three division titles and reached the Conference Finals once in his eight-year coaching stint, but there was no parade. His combined record for his last two seasons with the Heat was a disappointing 61-103.
Now Riley inherits a team made up of players of his own selection. Let's see if this one fulfills his promise of a championship.
Hall of Fame coach Dr. Jack Ramsay was a Miami Heat broadcaster during Pat Riley's tenure as Heat coach.
Hornets guard Speedy Claxton helped keep the ball away from the Suns and Steve Nash. New Orleans/Oklahoma City delivered a 91-87 win in Phoenix. The Suns have now lost two straight; the Hornets snapped a five-game losing streak.
OK, Dr. Detroit. The Mavs just won five in a row. They won three tough games on the road without Jason Terry, Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse. We are playing some D. C'mon, Stein. Give us one week at No. 1 -- then you can wash your Pistons jersey and put it back on next week.
I was so pleased to see that Mike Dunleavy thinks his "Paper Clips" have taken the next step up by beating the Phoenix Suns at home last weekend. Anyone who actually saw the game might think differently. Mike, the facts are these: Half the Suns' team was nearly fouled out by referee Violet Palmer in the first two minutes of play. And the Suns lost Leandro Barbosa and James Jones to injuries. It was a gift win and it won't happen again. Enjoy your time in first place, Clips. It won't last.
I tend to like your rankings, but in this recent edition the Lakers should be ranked higher. They're below the Bucks and Bulls -- both of whom they beat on the road last week -- and the Nuggets, whom they've beaten twice this season. I believe the Lakers should be ranked 13th, just ahead of the Nuggets and Bulls.
The Bucks are the most underrated team in the NBA. When they beat Cleveland, SportsCenter only showed LeBron highlights. Not even one highlight from the winning team. Ridiculous. They should be at least No. 6 in the rankings.
A coaching saga in Miami and a trade request in Indy -- all while Detroit is 15-3 and having played six more road games than home games. We're even withstanding the Power Rankings curse! It's a great time to be a Pistons fan. Let's just hope Chauncey and Rip can get some All-Star Game action.
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Kobe Bryant is rejected by DJ Mbenga here, but the Lakers' guard (43 points) canned a remarkable three late, boosting the Lakers to a 109-106 win in Dallas.
Quote of the Night
-- Andrew Ayres
The uneasiness Stan Van Gundy was feeling (and only he knows whether it was fueled, consciously or subconsciously, by Pat Riley's looming presence and Shaquille O'Neal's residual resentment) was obviously substantial, and he went to Riley early in the season and told him how he was feeling. Riley wrote Heat owner Micky Arison a note regarding Van Gundy's displeasure and gave it to his boss after a game against Philadelphia on Nov. 16. Arison's impulse was to make a change immediately, but Riley counseled him to wait.
Jarron Collins had 14 rebounds while Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko each had 12. They are the first trio of teammates to each grab at least a dozen rebounds in a game this season and they are the first Utah teammates to do it since Jan. 12, 1983, when the group was Mark Eaton (14), J.J. Anderson (13) and Jeff Wilkins (12). No team had done that against the Pistons since Feb. 5, 1984 when the Celtics' threesome of Larry Bird (19), Robert Parish (18) and Kevin McHale (13) did it.
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Pat Riley is a task master. He has already decided how he wants his players to play. He is noted for long practices that test players' endurance. He believes this team has a chance for greatness, and he will challenge the players to live up to his vision.
Riley has the juice to make players do exactly what he wants them to accomplish. He has won championships with his philosophy and realizes that he has put together the talent to make a run at another ring. There will be an adjustment period, but when all is said and done, Riley will have them knocking on the door come playoff time.
How many wins do you think the Heat (11-10) would have if Riley had taken over as head coach before the season? (24,783 votes)
How many wins do you think Van Gundy and the Heat (11-10) would have if Shaquille O'Neal had been healthy all season? (24,783 votes)