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Winderman: 25th anniversary perfect time for Riley to rafters | Commentary

Sun Sentinel logoSun Sentinel 2/29/2020 By Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Last weekend it was about Dwyane Wade, and deservedly so, an entire weekend celebrating the retirement of his No. 3 jersey.

Next up for the Miami Heat will be the No. 40 of Udonis Haslem and assuredly the No. 6 of LeBron James.

But there also is a milestone approaching that would make next season the perfect time for Micky Arison and the Heat to turn in a different direction.

And, yes, this decision would have to come from the Heat owner, because it couldn't come from Pat Riley.

Because it would be about Pat Riley.

On Sept. 1, 1995, Riley became president and coach of the Heat. The means a 25th anniversary is at hand, one that assuredly deserves more than a gold watch.

Riley has not been shy when it comes to commemorations. It is why not only are the numbers of Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Bosh and Wade retired, but there also is a banner for the 20 years of Heat service for former trainer Ron Culp, banners signifying Olympic gold from Heat players, and, yes, those jerseys elsewhere atop AmericanAirlines Arena of Michael Jordan and Dan Marino, as well.

In fact, if the Heat were to act, they would be the first to so honor Riley on the NBA level. For all their championship success, including their 11 championships in Los Angeles, the only coach honored with a banner by the Lakers is John Kundla, and that as part of a commemoration of the team's time in Minneapolis.

"Knowing Pat," Heat captain Udonis Haslem said, "he wouldn't want to deal with that. He'd tell you he's too busy building a championship.

"But one day, it should go up there. But if you asked him right now, he'd probably say no."

While Riley’s lone championship as Heat coach came when he took over for Stan Van Gundy in midseason in 2005-06, raising Riley’s name to the rafters would be about more than his twin tenures as Heat coach. It would be about making basketball matter in South Florida, instilling a culture so ingrained that it well could endure long beyond any homage paid to Riley.

"Obviously the players get a lot of credit for winning the championships," said Haslem, who has been with the team for 17 of Riley's seasons, "but it starts from the top.

"So definitely. I definitely think the success we've had and what we've been able to accomplish and where this organization has gone from when Pat first got here, he definitely deserves to go up in those rafters."

Such honors for enduring coaching and front-office institutions hardly are the NBA exception.

As far as coaches, the Boston Celtics retired No. 2 for Red Auerbach, the Denver Nuggets' No. 432 for Doug Moe, the Indiana Pacers No. 529 for Slick Leonard, the New York Knicks No. 613 for Red Holzman, the Portland Trail Blazers No. 77 for Jack Ramsay, the Utah Jazz No. 1 for Frank Layden and No. 1223 for Jerry Sloan, with a Minnesota Timberwolves banner for Flip Saunders and Phoenix Suns banners for Cotton Fitzsimmons and John MacLeod.

For the front office and ownership, the Detroit Pistons have banners for Jack McCloskey and Bill Davidson, the Houston Rockets for Carroll Dawson, the Pacers for Mel Simon, the Phoenix Suns for Jerry Colangelo, the Portland Trail Blazers for Harry Glickman, with the Chicago Bulls holding ceremonies to honor Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause.

With Riley, a banner honoring his 454 Heat regular-season wins or even his combined 489 regular-season and playoff wins with the team wouldn't tell the full stories of his Heat quarter century. Nor would a banner with a pen to commemorate signings of players such as James, Bosh and O'Neal, as well as the drafting of Wade.

"We'd have to put his suit, his hair gel, his tie and his shoes," Haslem said. "But how does he even get those shoes on, those tight shoes?"

And if it means his own moment would have to be put on hold, so be it, Haslem said.

"I mean there's no way he should have to wait until he retires," Haslem said. "They have active coaches in the Hall of Fame."

Of course, if there is a Riley ceremony it would create the need for an alternate emcee, with Riley having filled that role during the team's previous ceremonies.

"I'm always ready to speak," Haslem said with a smile. "You haven't noticed by now? I stay ready. I've got that gift of gab."


HIS TIME: While the Heat’s G League affiliate had to deal with the resulting loss of a contributor, the story of how Sioux Falls Skyforce 3-point specialist Mychal Mulder learned of his 10-day contract from the Golden State Warriors this past week shows just how special such moments can be. “I was at my house,” Mulder explained upon his arrival to the Warriors. “We had had a game and it was a close game. Jarrett Jack had closed it out, actually, on a free throw with one second left. And we’re at my house. There’s about three of us there, some of my teammates, and we’re just hanging out. It was like approaching midnight. And I get a call from like a number I didn’t recognize. I didn’t answer it at first. And then I got a text and said, ‘Call me back. It’s time urgent.’ So I said, OK I’ll call back, and they said, ‘It’s so-and-so from the Golden State Warriors. Sorry to call you so late, but I have good news for you.’ And I was like, ‘Hit me with it.’ And they said, ‘We want to offer you a 10-day [contract]. Would you be willing? I know it’s late at night, but would you be willing to get on the flight over here at 6 a.m.’ I was like, 'Sir, I’ll get on a flight any time you want me to. I ‘ll go right now if you want.’ So, yeah, that’s where I was, and I was happy to be there with some of my teammates. They were super excited for me.” In the wake of that move, the Heat returned Gabe Vincent to the Skyforce on his two-way contract to help bolster the roster of former Heat video coordinator Eric Glass.

HIS TIME, TOO: The All-Star berth he had hoped for not materializing, former Heat center Hassan Whiteside now is putting his name into the ring for Defensive Player of the Year. Now with the Portland Trail Blazers, Whiteside told NBCSports Northwest he should be in the running with Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. "Gobert won it because he was leading the league in blocked shots," Whiteside said. "This is going to be my second time [leading the league]. Let’s talk about it." Whiteside said it should be about more than the Blazers' defensive struggles. "The team doesn't get the award," he said. "It's a player award. And as far as blocking shots, there isn’t anybody even close."

TOUGH TIMES: Speaking of former Heat players, Wayne Ellington’s season has gone as far south as that of his New York Knicks. No, he told the New York Daily News, this was not what he was expecting, having signed to play for former Heat assistant coach David Fizdale and instead dealing with the fallout with the switch to interim coach Mike Miller. “It’s been a crazy year and I’ve been a casualty of that,” he said. “As a veteran and understanding that as a professional, I’m all right. I can handle it. I think that’s one thing that’s understood — just stay professional, stay with it. And I think what I’ve done in this league and what I bring to the table for a pretty good amount of time is understood and respected.” The Knicks hold a team option on Ellington for next season, likely making him an offseason trade chip.

HOME TIME: It has been quite the whirlwind, but former Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. continues to find work, currently on a two-way contract with his hometown Detroit Pistons. Undrafted out of Michigan in 2017, Walton spent 2017 with the Heat, played last season in Lithuania and Germany, and then started this season with the Los Angeles Clippers before their trade-deadline maneuvering left him unsigned and available to the Pistons. “I’ve always been known as a great teammate, a great locker room guy,” Walton told the Detroit Free Press. “I think that’s going to follow me wherever I go.”


1 for 15. Jimmy Butler’s shooting this season when going for the lead or tie in the final minute of regulation or overtime, according to The lone successful conversion, entering the weekend, was a 3-pointer on Dec. 10 against the Atlanta Hawks with 29.8 seconds to play. Butler was 6 of 8 in such situations last season.


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