Pop’s Nod To Riley, Heat’s Big 3


MIAMI — In most respects, their methods couldn’t be more diametrically opposed.

Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs have built their dynasty on a bedrock of consistency … with core players (first with David Robinson and Tim Duncan and later with Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili) and an unchanging style and vision. It’s worked to the tune of five trips to The Finals in 15 seasons for Pop and his crew.

Pat Riley and the Miami Heat have built their program on a foundation that has shifted from Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal the Big 3 of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, sacrificing a long-term vision for whatever formula works right here and right now. It’s worked to the tune of four trips to The Finals, including three straight (… and counting), in the last eight seasons.

The contrasting styles does not overshadow the shared respect between two of the league’s most successful coaches/executives and the mutual admiration between two franchises that represent the past, present and potentially the future of championship-level franchise-building in a league where every team dreams of being the model.

When the Heat put together their current core in the summer of 2009, Popovich was one of the first league executives to call Riley and pay his respects and explained why this afternoon during the Spurs’ media availability session at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“Well, you know I still call him ‘Coach Riley.’ I can’t help it,” Popovich said. “I guess he’s ‘Executive Coach Riley’ and all that, slash whatever. But he’s been a competitor obviously his whole career, since he was he was a player in college and beyond. He put together a team fairly, within the rules, that is a monster. So why wouldn’t he get credit for that. Why wouldn’t you congratulate him for that?”

“So I did. I always respected his competitiveness and how he ran things in New York and LA and so on and so forth. And as an executive, he’s done the same thing. He lets people do what they do, puts things together and he put together a hell of a team. And so I called him to thank him because I respect him so much — not to thank him but to congratulate him. That’s the last thing I do is thank him for that.”

In an environment where envy and raw competition can sometimes go overboard and ruin relationship and off-court friendships, a healthy rivalry between these two shot-callers and franchises should make for an even more interesting battle in The Finals.


  1. rinati75 says:


    • great series says:

      idk why everyone has miami winning this whole thing, im not a fan of either team even though they are the 2 best teams in the nba this year but spurs will end up winning this. they have virtually no pressure on them, they are the calmest team to play basketball, they execute every game and they have just as much talent. If bosh and wade don’t show up like the indiana series expect a sweep straight up but if miami plays like they did in game 3 and 7 it will be a hard series, but honestly when have u ever seen miami play good basketball for longer than a quarter…

  2. rinati75 says:

    I love Miami but I have RESPECT for the Spurs and really, really like them better than any other team from the western conference. When Miami lost to Dallas I was butt-hurt because of the lost, I won’t nor can’t deny that. This time around, if, I repeat, IF Miami loses to San Antonio I will actually still be happy even though my favorite team didn’t repeat because they’re chances of making it to the finals over the next few years are great and because I’d like Duncan to get another ring because he’s played really great basketball during his career. Let’s just enjoy the game. Like Lebron said, “…it’s just a game .”

  3. Lan says:

    Riley: “I’ll beat your big 3 (Duncan, Parker and Ginobli)”
    Popovich: “Oh you mean Mc Grady, Bonner and Diaw? Sure go ahead.”

  4. JMaine says:

    @Giddi, What are you saying? Sekou may not always have something great to write about, but he talked about the twin towers when he mentioned David Robinson. And they we’re not the original Twin towers. sad how many people think they know they’re basketball. If you don’t like sekou then just say it, But dont read the blog and try to make him sound dumb, only for you to look like the dumb one. and if you don’t like Sekou then stop reading his blogs. I get tired of reading these blogs and people like you have nothing to add but ignorance and hate.

  5. Miami Heat Fan says:

    There’s no way Lebron James will let the Spurs take this away again to him.

  6. Giddi says:

    I suppose Sekou never heard of something like the “Twin Towers”, the Admiral never played for the Spurs and Tony Parker played in the NBA as a 16 year old?

    Come on Sekou, let someone proofread your articles from someone who was watching NBA before 2005 or research what you are writing.

  7. jack23 says:

    props to POP for all the success of the SPURS, and sure had all that Rings with their concistency on the floor, but for now things have changed, there was no STRONG BIG 3 as the MIAMI has now when the SPURS era were so dominant, as we all know Miami is lack of height but they overcome that weakness, and sure if this will be the factor Spurs plan, i bet Heat will easily win this series,..as Allen Battier and Miller will throw that 3 most of the time if given the chance thats for sure..

  8. allaroundballer says:

    I love Spurs, Duncan is the best PF in modern NBA. But it’s over now. Miami had hard time mainly because 7’2″ Hibbert just like 2011 was (against Chandler). Who would think Splitter can do better? And lets not talk about Duncan being old. Just simply they’re not better defenders than Noah-Boozer and Hibbert-West. Plus I bet Bosh is ready to come back after having his hardest and miss match opponent. Facing James (and Wade), you can’t leave it all to Leonard or any other SF in NBA. In the end you always need a great tall and durable rim protector.

    Otherwise, any crucial moment Heat will put James on Parker. We seen that before, James locked Rose.
    Both are hungry for another ring but with home court advantage and those aggressiveness, Heat will get 4 wins first. The best Spurs chance is inconsistent Wade.

    If somehow Pop win this final, he’ll be the best NBA coach (ever)

    • Ro says:

      Pretty sure my left leg is a better defender than Boozer!! But you’re right, Spliiter and Duncan is not the same as the height of Hibbert

  9. Kirtap says:

    Same Core, 5 trips no the finals? Their core player during the ’99 season was Tim and David Robinson.. No Manu and Tony yet.

    • Ro says:

      And I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure Miami’s core was put together in the summer of 2010, not 2009….

  10. Big Al says:

    Deep inside Pop:

    “James, Wade, Bosh, nah, we’re too good for those guys. There’s no need for Parker, Duncan, Ginobili, maybe even Green to fight them. I’ll send them all to an early vacation and let my second unit go at the defending champions and multiple MVP.”