Riley responds to reports he could step down as coach

With the Miami Heat struggling, Pat Riley is answering a lot more questions about his future. His responses have been as up and down as his team.

According to several published reports on Wednesday, Riley is leaning toward stepping aside as head coach of the Heat after this season, despite committing in the offseason to coach the team through 2009-10, Riley said it might be in Miami's best interests if he focuses solely on his duties as team president.

"But that's after this season," Riley told reporters Tuesday, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "That's not now."

Before Wednesday's game against the Bucks in Milwaukee, Riley seemed to change his tune, saying he was being philosophical when talking about the dual roles
he holds and potentially stepping aside.

"I always re-evaluate," Riley said. "I'm one of those guys, a
good old Irish Catholic who worries a lot so I re-evaluate all the
time. I throw the ball up in the air and 10 Hail Marys and 10 Our
Fathers and hope that it works out. That's how I do it."

Riley left the Heat for six weeks last year to undergo knee surgery and a hip replacement.

The 62-year-old Riley, under contract through 2009-10, dismissed
about a half-dozen questions on whether he would fulfill his
contract as Miami has slid to 8-27, worst in the Eastern
Conference, and lost by 10 on Tuesday night to Minnesota, which
currently holds the worst record in the NBA.

"Don't ask me that question. At this time it's like 'Yes' or
'No,' " he said. "There are hypotheticals in a season like this.
You don't want to turn the knife too early on things. Just let
things work its way out."

Riley said that he was torn by the promise he made to Heat owner Micky Arison to fill both roles for the next two years.

"Sometimes, just with me, I feel like now, more than ever, I might be butting heads with both jobs," Riley told reporters. "And I've revisited that over and over again."

In August, Riley said he planned to coach the Heat for the three
remaining years on his contract, an announcement that ended months
of speculation about his future. He said Wednesday night he has not
thought about his future.

"I don't even want to talk about that. We were talking about
the dual responsibilities of being a president and head coach and
there are conflicts there and I have to evaluate those all the
time," he said.

But Riley did acknowledge that his responsibilities are tougher when Miami plays poorly.

"I very rarely have to answer questions about it when we're
winning," Riley said. "It's only when you're losing."

Udonis Haslem said Riley deserves credit for what he's done, and
that he has a right to make up his mind in time.

"It's a situation that none of us expected to be in," Haslem
said. "He's probably in a little bit of shock just like we are,
but at the same time, as long as he's been in this league I don't
think there's too many situations that he hasn't been in or he
hasn't seen.

"If anybody has the knowledge or the experience of how to get
out of a situation like this, it's him. We've got to do it as a
team, continue to fight, follow his lead and hopefully things will
come together."

Although several NBA coaches also have the authority to make personnel decisions, Riley said he understands why many teams keep the jobs separate.

"I was much better, I believe, just as a president," he said, "because I wasn't having to deal with the personalities."

Riley gave up coaching in 2003, then returned when Stan Van
Gundy stepped down in December 2005 and led Miami to the 2006 NBA

When Riley left the team last year for hip surgery, assistant Ron Rothstein filled in.
After Riley returned, the Heat were swept out of last year's
playoffs by the Chicago Bulls.

Some of Riley's offseason moves didn't work out as planned.
Dwyane Wade was sidelined because of knee rehab at the start of the
season. Shaquille O'Neal's has battled thigh and hip injuries, and
his relationship with Riley has been the source of much debate
after word leaked of a practice-court argument between the star
center and the star coach.

Riley's contract ends at the same time that O'Neal's does, while
that is the final season of Wade's guaranteed contract. This
season, the Heat have been plagued by poor defense, depth and
outside shooting.

Only two men -- Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach -- have led more
teams to NBA championships than Riley, whose title with the Heat in
2006 was his fifth as a head coach.

"I'm not assessing anything," Riley said of his future. "It
was simply about the conflicts and there are conflicts about the

Erik Spoelstra is considered the frontrunner on Riley's current staff to replace him as coach. Riley could also hire longtime coach Mike Fratello.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.