MIAMI (AP) – Mired in his roughest season, Pat Riley has received basketball's highest honor.
The Miami Heat coach and president was selected April 7 for induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame, a long-expected accolade that comes tinged in irony. Riley's Heat have the worst record in the NBA this season at 13-64, and will finish with the lowest win total of his career.
For one day, though, all that can be forgotten.
“It means something good, for me personally, has come out of this year,” Riley said.
Riley has five championships as a head coach, one as an assistant and another as a player. He ranks third all-time in NBA coaching victories with 1,208, has the high school gym in his hometown of Schenectady, N.Y. named in his honor, is a best-selling author and is widely considered one of the game's best motivators.
But the Hall's call completes his resume. Most individual awards mean little to Riley, but he acknowledged that this one was different.
“This would represent the 16 coaches I've had in my life,” Riley said. “My father, especially him.”
Riley's father, Leon, was a baseball player and manager for most of his life, and it was from lessons learned from him that Riley's penchant for athletics was born.
Riley remains a legend among high school athletes in New York's capital region, was a star player for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky in the 1960s and was even drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1967 – the year he began NBA play with the San Diego Rockets.
Four decades later, Riley's status as one of basketball's legends now cannot be argued.
“It's an emotional time for Pat, his family, his friends, to know that he's worked that hard,'' said Ed Maull, one of Riley's closest friends and confidants within the Heat organization. “You stop and think about the guys in that Hall of Fame. You're talking about the Bob Knights, the John Woodens, the Chuck Dalys, the Red Auerbachs. For a man in his profession, you can't get a higher accolade.”
Riley and the other members of the 2008 class will be enshrined Sept. 5 in Springfield, Mass., about a 90-minute drive from Riley's childhood home. The rest of the Hall class includes Patrick Ewing, who played for Riley with the New York Knicks, along with Hakeem Olajuwon, Adrian Dantley, former Immaculata coach and women's basketball pioneer Cathy Rush, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson and ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale.