When LeBron James made “The Decision” to take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat in 2010, it was to play with perennial all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But it appears he was also hoping to play for a coaching legend — Pat Riley.
According to a new book called “The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA” by Ian Thomsen, James was dropping hints that he wanted the Hall of Famer, Riley, to come out of retirement — again — and coach the Heat.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) September 12, 2018
That first year in Miami, the “Big 3” of James, Wade and Bosh were not clicking in those first few weeks under coach Eric Spoelstra, according to Thomsen in a recent interview on The Lowe Post, the podcast hosted by ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
After the Heat got off to a 9-8 start in 2010, James had a conversation with Riley where he inquired about whether Riley ever considered returning to coaching.
Lowe recited a passage from the Thomsen book where Riley gave his thoughts on the conversation.
“[I] asked how things were progressing. They just said, ‘We’re not feeling it’ or something like that. We talked about the typical things we have to do, have patience, all that stuff,” Riley said in the book, according to Lowe.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) September 16, 2018
“And I remember LeBron looking at me and he said, ‘Don’t you ever get the itch?’” said Riley.
“And I said, ‘The itch for what?’
“He said, ‘The itch to coach again.’
Riley gave James a blunt response. “No I don’t have the itch,” he said.
If James was fishing around to see if Riley might want to take over the reins from Spoelstra, it wouldn’t have been an unprecedented move by Riley.
In 2005, Riley took over head coaching duties with the Heat when Stan Van Gundy resigned some 21 games into the season. There has been much speculation that Van Gundy was forced out so Riley could take over, but that was never the official line.
The Heat eventually righted the ship under Spoelstra in the 2010-11 season and made it to the NBA Finals, only to lose to the Mavericks.
But in the next two seasons after that, James and the Heat won back-to-back championships under Spoelstra.
Spoelstra is now considered one of the better coaches in the league, but at the time James arrived in Miami, he was young and unproven. Riley was, and is, considered among the greatest coaches of all time. His willingness to let Spoelstra develop as a head coach paid off for James and the Heat in the long run.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.