FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Pat Riley recently said he has no immediate plans to retire. But Riley, 68, obviously can’t go on forever.
At some point, the Miami Heat president, who does the work of general manager, will step down. And there’s a guy in his front office who wouldn’t mind filling his role.
“Yes, sir,” Miami scout and former star point guard Tim Hardaway said when asked if it’s his desire one day to be the Heat’s general manager. “That’s my goal. That’s why I’m here every day. … Everything is realistic. You just got to believe and make connections.”
When he was a youngster and competing on the playgrounds of his native Chicago, it seems Hardaway was preparing for more than just an NBA playing career. Hardaway, who primarily starred for Golden State and Miami during a career that spanned from 1989-2003, said he always was interested in building teams.
“I always figured myself as a GM because I always put teams together when I was little,” said Hardaway, who spoke to FOX Sports Florida after a weekend appearance at Fort Lauderdale’s African American Research Library and Cultural Center. “I’d put teams together to go out and win eight to 10 games in a row. I was putting my team together, understanding what it takes to go out and win ballgames.”
Hardaway is optimistic one day he will doing that in the NBA.
“I (have) expertise on understanding what to put out there on the basketball court, what type of talent goes with talent, what type of attitudes go with attitudes,” said Hardaway, who credits having learned plenty from Hall of Famers Riley and Don Nelson, once his coach at Golden State. “I understand this collective bargaining agreement. I understand how to put teams together. I understand how to maneuver contracts.”
That Hardaway, 46, eventually could become an NBA general manager might have seemed implausible six years ago. In February 2007, Hardaway made anti-gay comments that resulted in him being barred from NBA All-Star Game events that month and threatened how much he might be involved in the league in the future.
After former NBA player John Amaechi had revealed he is gay, Hardaway said in a radio interview, “I hate gay people, so let it be known. I don’t like gay people and I don’t want to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the United States.” Hardaway soon apologized but plenty of damage had been done to his reputation.
Hardaway since has gone to great lengths to make up for what he said. He attended counseling at the Yes Institute in Miami, and in 2010 the Heat hired him.
“I’ve changed a lot,” Hardaway said. “I hear my (2007) comments today and I cringe because those were bad comments. It was like I was telling people to go bully them, beat them up, you can commit suicide, all the bad things, and that’s the way it sounded. I wanted to make amends to myself and make amends to everybody and make sure that they understand totally that wasn’t me. I made a big mistake and I just wanted to change it.”
As much Hardaway regrets the comments, he said they at least resulted in dialogue he believes ultimately advanced society.
“What I said and how I said it, it was bad,” Hardaway said. “But I think it opened up a lot of eyes and made people really, really understand that these are people and that we shouldn’t bash them or throw rocks at them or anything like that. I think that opened up a lot of eyes, opened up a lot of dialogue to which people didn’t even want to touch (before). Now, I think they will touch it. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing (the comments were made), but, if I didn’t say that, I think we still would be further back.”
On April 27, news broke that Collins had written a story for Sports Illustrated in which he revealed he is gay. Hardaway immediately sought to track down Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran who is a free agent this summer and still trying to find a team.
“I got his number from somebody and talked to him,” Hardaway said. “It was just for me and him. I’m not on Twitter. I’m not on Facebook … (Hardaway told Collins), ‘That’s great you can come out. … Congratulations. I’m happy for you and I think this is a big step, not only for you, but for everybody.”‘
Hardaway joked about how on the first day he came out, Collins revealed “the three calls that he got were from me, Oprah (Winfrey) and President Obama.”
Even when he was at his lowest point in February 2007 and barred from All-Star activities in Las Vegas, Hardaway said he never felt he had damaged chances of getting a future NBA job. The Heat hired Hardaway, who starred for them from 1996-2001, in June 2010, the month before they acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh to change the direction of the franchise.
Three years later, Hardaway said he’s coming off a great stretch in his life. His son, Tim Hardaway Jr., helped Michigan to last April’s NCAA title game and was drafted in June by New York, the Heat recently won their second straight NBA title, and Hardaway was a finalist for the Hall of Fame. Although he didn’t get in, he’s optimistic about future enshrinement.
Hardaway will try to balance next season scouting college players for Miami and catching his son’s games on television. Yes, he admits it’s interesting the shooting guard is with the Knicks, the Heat’s most hated rival when Hardaway played for them.
“It’s my son,” Hardaway said. “Blood is thicker than water. I will always root for him. But I’m not wearing the Knicks colors, a Knicks hat or a Knicks shirt.”
When it comes to assessing his son, Hardaway said he can “talk about him as an objective GM and not as his dad.” He called his strengths shooting, getting others involved and leadership and his weaknesses beating his man to the basket and not handling well enough being bumped while dribbling.
Hardaway has been talking like a general manager since he was a kid on the playgrounds of Chicago. And one day he’d love to put those skills to use for the Heat, although he realizes nothing is imminent.
“Someday, yes,” Hardaway said of there being an opening for a Miami general manager. “But I think for the next, I don’t know, two, three, four years, Riley is the person.”
Until then, Hardaway will “keep learning from one of the best, keep writing down your notes, make sure you’re right there when he talks.”