Person close to Riley says he'll step down as Heat coach - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Person close to Riley says he'll step down as Heat coach

MIAMI (AP) - Pat Riley's worst season as coach of the Miami Heat will be his last.

The Hall of Famer will resign as coach Monday afternoon but remain team president, a person close to Riley said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because an announcement had yet to be made.

It's believed Riley will name longtime assistant Erik Spoelstra his replacement. An afternoon news conference is scheduled and team owner Micky Arison is to attend.

As Heat president, Riley will continue to oversee a plan to halt the team's dramatic fall after it won the NBA championship in 2006. The Heat finished this season with the NBA's worst record - 15-67.

Riley's future was among many major issues awaiting Miami this offseason. The Heat could have the No. 1 pick in the draft, are assured a top-four pick and are certain to make several moves in an effort to revamp a roster plagued by injuries all year.

"One thing we know for sure: He will be the president," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said one day after the most disappointing season in Miami's 20-year franchise history ended this month. "Whatever else happens after that, we know he's going to do what's best for the team."

Wade and other Heat players did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Unless he comes back - he has once before - Riley finishes his career with 1,210 victories, third most in NBA history behind Lenny Wilkens and Don Nelson. He won seven championships in all, five as a head coach, one as an assistant and one as a player, and was voted into the 2008 Hall of Fame class this month. His induction is Sept. 5.

The rebuilding process will still be his primary focus. Riley essentially began that job in February when he traded disgruntled center Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns. The move not only rid the team of a player who didn't want to remain in Miami, but gave the Heat some salary-cap room that wouldn't otherwise have been available until O'Neal's contract expired in 2010.

"Regardless if Pat is coaching or not, I think he'll still have a lot of say-so in what goes on around here," Heat forward Shawn Marion, who was acquired in that trade for O'Neal, said this month.

But now, the say-so will come from Spoelstra, who has been with the Heat for 13 seasons but never a head coach at any level outside of the NBA's summer league.

Spoelstra came to the Heat in 1995 as video coordinator, and was promoted to assistant coach/video coordinator two years later. He's worked his way up the ladder since and has long been considered the person Riley would promote when the time was right.

It's a tactic Riley used before. He stepped down days before the 2003-04 season began, walking into then-assistant coach Stan Van Gundy's office one morning and asking him, "You ready?"

Van Gundy remained coach for two-plus seasons, resigning 21 games into the 2005-06 campaign. Riley replaced his former protege on the bench and engineered Miami's march to the 2006 championship.

But the Heat have gone 59-105 in regular-season games since, the second-biggest two-year fall by a championship team in NBA history.

He started his head coaching career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning a championship in his first season with a team led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also took the New York Knicks to the NBA finals before coming to Miami in 1995, where on the day he was introduced he famously talked about envisioning a championship parade down Biscayne Boulevard.

Eleven years later, that vision became reality.

 

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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