MIAMI –LeBron James isn’t the only member of the Miami Heat family to collect a little postseason hardware. The three-time KIA MVP was joined Tuesday by Heat president Pat Riley, who won the National Basketball Coaches Association 2012 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award.
A member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame’s Class of 2008, Riley adds this latest honor to his long list of achievements. One of the most accomplished coaches and team executives in NBA history, Riley has spent 43 years in the league as a player, coach and executive.
“It’s good to be back … for a minute,” a smiling Riley said from the podium at AmericanAirlines Arena Tuesday night, where he received the award before Game 4 of The Finals between his Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. “Chuck and I were rivals back in the 80s but there’s a connection that goes back so long.”
Riley praised Daly and all the coaches he’s competed against and learned from in his four decades, and counting, in basketball.
“The only thing I know anything about in my life has been taught to me by coaches,” he said. But he stopped short of saying he’d rather be back on the bench than orchestrating from behind the scenes.
“As far as me missing it, I don’t miss it,” he said. “I feel it in the gut right now. We have a very, very good young coach who’s growing leaps and bounds. I did 30 years. That’s enough.”
Riley joins a distinguished list of coaches who have won the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award. Prior winners include Lenny Wilkens in 2011, Tex Winter and Jack Ramsay in 2010 and Tommy Heinsohn in 2009.
LOS ANGELES – Triangle offense guru Tex Winter and legendary coach and basketball commentator Dr. Jack Ramsay shared the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, handed out before Game 2 of the NBA Finals Sunday night at Staples Center.
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coaches Association, was on hand to deliver the award to the coaching giants. Tommy Heinsohn received the inaugural award named in of Daly, who won back-to-back championships with the Detroit Pistons and coached the Dream Team to an Olympic gold medal during his Hall of Fame career. Daly died last year of pancreatic cancer.
“I’m honored to receive this award,” Ramsay said. “Chuck was a special guy in het way that he coached, the way that he dressed, the way that he got his teams to play the game that he wanted them to play, without an overbearing presence on the team. I think it’s very fitting that the coaches association has named an award in his honor. And I’m especially fortunate and honored to receive this award … and I’m honored to share this honor with Tex.”
Ramsay guided the Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA title in 1977 and remains one of the game’s global voices for his work as a coach and broadcaster. The offensive architect for nine title teams under Phil Jackson, six in Chicago and three with the Lakers, Winter received a 10th ring from the Lakers after they won the 2009 title (below).
LOS ANGELES – As expected, the passing of famed UCLA coach and basketball icon John Wooden has produced a wide range of emotions amongst the natives here in Southern California.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant is no different, having spent all of his adult life in this town being reminded of Wooden and his legacy by so many inside and outside of the Lakers organization.
Bryant spoke briefly about Wooden and their unique relationship after the Lakers wrapped up practice Saturday at their facility in El Segundo.
“Well, I mean, to say he was a great coach I think doesn’t do it any justice,” Bryant said. “I think his legacy speaks for itself. The personal experience that I’ve had with him was the first time ‑‑ I saw him once at a UCLA basketball game when I was really young and we spoke briefly, and then we spoke at length at Chick Hearn‘s funeral. We spoke for about 25, 30 minutes.
“I think if you talk to any of his players, players that played for him, I think the thing that’s consistent is that he made them better people, you know. I think that would be a true mark of his legacy. The winning and all that stuff, that’s stuff that we all know about.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has a framed picture of Wooden on his desk back in Boston. It’s his own tribute to a coaching legend that he holds in the highest regard.
“He was the best coach ever, him and Red Auerbach are the two guys that we talk about, the gods, and there are two of them,” Rivers said. “So the fact that I got to meet him and he actually knew my name, to me blew me away on its own right. I don’t ask for a lot of autographs, and he was one that I wanted, and he was as gracious as we thought he would be. You know, to have those two on your desk, I don’t think you need to further your collection. You know, those are the two best.
“Tough, sad loss, really, for all of us. But with Wooden, I think he’s one of the rare superstars that stood out more about him as a person than he did as a coach or anything. And that’s rare, when you say that about any star in any business.”
Bryant and Rivers weren’t the only ones asked about and prepared to speak about Wooden. Lakers coach Phil Jackson also shared his thoughts:
You know, I guess of the 150,000 people that are reciting John’s legendary fame, I just stand in awe of the guy. I think as a young basketball player growing up and watching the ’62 Bruins, the ’63 Bruins, the era that I came out of high school and watching this team, this pesky team of 6’5″ guys, Keith Erickson and Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich roll out a great record and play the incredible defense that they played with the speed that they played at, I think that that was my first awareness of John Wooden.”
“You know, obviously one of his Final Four games was against my colleague, Tex Winter. They had great a rivalry going. Tex always tells the story that his team was ahead by four points going into the last stretch of the ballgame, and there was a blizzard out in Kansas. The game’s in Kansas City which was close to Manhattan, Kansas, where he was coaching at Kansas State, and then the UCLA girls showed up and the cheerleaders led his team on, the Bruins, on to victory. He said, I think the referees got enamored with the Bruins cheerleaders, all those beautiful California girls.”
So that’s a 40‑year ago, 50‑year ago vision in a man who was eventually ‑‑ went on to win nine more championships in a number of years. He did it then with unbelievable talent, talent started coming in his direction with obviously Lew Alcindor ‑ Kareem Abdul‑Jabbar ‑ and a myriad of other players that came in there. But that first initial group won has always kind of a special place as to his activity, how he prepared his teams, their defensive mindset, and the things that he really believed in basketball as a coach.
You can expect the testimonials and reflections to continue to flow about Wooden, one of the greatest teachers, coaches and men to grace us all with his presence.
SALT LAKE CITY – Phil Jackson couldn’t help but make the connection. A Saturday, again, Lakers-Jazz, again, in the playoffs, again, preparing for a game in EnergySolutions Arena, again.
A year ago in similar circumstances – same opponent, same location, same day, the only difference being that it was the first round – Jackson learned that team consultant Tex Winter, his longtime assistant coach and mentor, had suffered a stroke in Kansas. Winter survived and is living in Oregon while continuing his rehabilitation.
“I was thinking about him yesterday because I recognize the fact that it was a Saturday, just like today, that I got the call and they had taken him to the emergency room,” Jackson said. “It’s a year past, he’s surviving, doing well, and watching our games, I know that.”
But no longer giving Jackson a hard time.
“No, he’s not,” the Lakers coach said. “That’s the one thing he’s not doing.”