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Could Pat Riley really step in for Erik Spoelstra? Phil Jackson thinks so.

Nov 23, 2010, 2:47 PM EDT

Image (1) spoelstra-thumb-250x140-12988-thumb-250x140-12989.jpg for post 4244

Stan Van Gundy had the Miami Heat and their big stars Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal off to a decent but behind expectations start of 11-10 when Pat Riley canned him and stepped in to take over as coach. They won a ring.

This season’s Miami Heat are off to a decent but behind expectations 8-6 start and…

Could history repeat itself?

Phil Jackson thinks maybe, as he told ESPN Radio in Chicago (transcribed by ESPNLosAngeles)

“The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited — Bosh and James — by Pat Riley and Mickey Arrison, the owner, are going to come in and say, ‘We feel you [Riley] can do a better job coaching the team. We came here on the hopes that this would work,’ and whatever, I don’t know,” Jackson said. “That’s kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don’t straighten out here soon, it could be the Van Gundy thing all over again.”

Last night, the Indiana Pacers looked like the better coached team. They had much better off-the-ball movement in the half court and tried hard to push the pace when they could. As a team, their defensive help rotations and effort was just better.

Is that Spoelstra’s fault? Is it a lack of leadership on the team? Is it just a matter of the team having not come together and they need more time? Is it that maybe the lack of depth is really coming back to haunt them?

Does any of that even really matter? In practice, the answer is not is it Spoelstra’s fault so much as is it perceived Riley could do the job better?

By all accounts, Riley does not want to come down to the bench and do that grind again. You can be sure that the players — especially guys like Wade that have been through Riley’s legendarily brutal practices — don’t want him down on the bench again. On one hand, this can be Phil Jackson doing what he does best — stirring the pot. Mind games with a potential opponent.

But Riley has set the Heat’s timetable as now, same with James. And right now, Jackson said the Celtics remain the best in the East.

“The Celtics have a defense you have to plan for. Their defense is overwhelmingly a factor in the ballgame,” Jackson said. “They’re going to smother. They’re going to really contest. They’re going to body guys. There’s going to be double-teaming underneath the free-throw line. There are a lot of things that go on there that you have to start planning for.

“Right now, Miami hasn’t kind of shown — the defense has improved recently — they haven’t really shown this is something you really have to plan for. You have to plan how to defend these great individuals that they have. And that’s going to be part of the planning. Boston still gives you a multiple effect as a basketball team.”

  1. 8dollarbeer - Nov 23, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    Chris Bosh is the weakest big man in the league. He makes Shawn Bradley look like Bill Laimbeer!! The fact is no matter who is coaching them, they are soft.

  2. eazye76 - Nov 23, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    There is defiantly some underlying message or jab at Riley in what Phil said. The Lakers have a really good shot chance of at least making it to the Finals and Pat Riley is a much more formidable opponent than Spoelstra.
    Phil just wants to make it a little more awkward if/when Riley decides to come back.

    • molly169 - Nov 24, 2010 at 9:17 AM

      eazye76 – Your post makes no sense. Are you saying that there is defiance on the team? Or mabe you can’t spell definitely? My fourth grader got a laugh anyway!

      • keithwpatterson1964 - Nov 24, 2010 at 1:11 PM

        I just love how small-minded people have nothing better to do than insult people’s grammar. I can see your raising quite a considerate and respectful brat to follow your pathetic example. Grow up and spend some quality time with your kid instead of wasting valuable time in your self-appointed role as grammar police…get a life!

      • keithwpatterson1964 - Nov 24, 2010 at 1:13 PM

        Oh, and you mispelled maybe and i mispelled you’re…but nobody really gives a rat’s @$$!

  3. frankvzappa - Nov 23, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    two superstars and a bunch of amateurs arent going to win a title anytime soon, especially when you have four (maybe five) hall of famers up in beantown, alongside a great bench…im counting down the days until the Celtics sweep the heat in the playoffs…then the countdown begins to laker revenge…

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