Phil's spat with Pat
By Matt "Money" Smith
FOX Sports West & PRIME TICKET
November 24, 2010
No matter how much time has passed and no matter how many years removed Phil Jackson might be from that old post at United Center, there are still the same battles to be fought�it just so happens there are new addresses for the combatants.
While joining a Chicago radio show (Waddle and Silvy on ESPN 1000), Jackson couldn't help himself when tossed a few softballs from the hosts regarding his old (and likely soon-to-be current) nemesis Pat Riley, commenting on the current state of the Miami Heat.
After their latest loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday night dropped their record to 8-6, and while most coaches would stay away from forming an opinion on the matter, it's undoubtedly due to Riley's involvement that Jackson shared his opinion:
"The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited -- Bosh and James -- by Pat Riley and Micky Arison, 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."
It's so diabolical on so many levels I had to write out the entire 88-word quote.
That way when you finish reading this column, you can go back to the giant run-on sentence and read it over and over and over again to get to all the different levels he goes after the Heat with that one statement. Before I play "Lets search for the hidden meanings," please remember the relationship between these two individuals.
Even the most casual basketball fan can't forget the palpable hatred Riley and Jackson had for one another during their battles in the 1990's while Riley was running the Knicks and Jackson the Bulls. The vitriol, the spit and vinegar, the caustic behavior that manifested itself in the media thorough a war of words was nearly as compelling as the on court battles between Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing.
Close to 20 years later, Jackson has won more titles in Los Angeles than Riley, and even passed Riley as the all-time leader in Lakers victories. Should Jackson and the Lakers win another title this season, making it eight trips to the finals and six championships in 11 years, there's absolutely no question he'll go down as the greatest Lakers coach of all time. A title Riley figured he would hold forever. Riley got his revenge in 2006 by coaching Shaquille O'Neal to a title, essentially suggesting "That wasn't so hard Phil, anyone can get a title with this guy on their team." But like he always does, Jackson had the last laugh, having been at the center of another dynasty, and he's done it with the Lakers of all teams.
So, as for the statement about the Heat, let's start with the so-called "scenario" that Jackson describes. He opens with it sitting "behind the scenes." What good ever comes from "behind the scenes?" It's usually corporate suits that are pulling strings, or power plays by entitled narcissists that have to get what they want by using back channels where the public isn't privy to their clandestine behavior. So Jackson has established this move isn't on the "up and up."
Secondly, he then puts it on the players, specifically Chris Bosh and LeBron James, "eventually these guys that were recruited are going to come in and say 'We feel you [Riley] can do a better job coaching the team.'" We already know outside of Miami, they're hated. Jackson said as much earlier in that interview: "I think a lot of people are looking at that kind of hoping things go wrong instead of hoping things go right because of the way they were formed." On top of that, they won't be taking a lick of responsibility for the putrid start to their season. Instead their approach will be to throw their coach under the bus, suggest he be fired, and have Riley take over himself.
No matter your line of work, is there anyone more hated than the guy at the top who's always putting the blame on someone that's making a fraction the salary they are just to cover their own ass?
Then he reminds everyone how dirty Riley did Stan Van Gundy: "if things don't straighten out here soon, it could be the Van Gundy thing all over again." Does that read like "the Van Gundy thing" was one of the more proud moments in the history of the Heat franchise?
What Jackson has managed to do is put an even nastier association on the action of Riley coming down from the front office to take over the coaching duties of this team, like so many of us suspect he will. And when it happens, the hope for Jackson is, James and Bosh are viewed as even bigger bad guys, the worst spoiled multi-millionaires in the association, and players who can't accept responsibility. In turn they'll be booed mercilessly at every stop they make this NBA season. He also reminded every coach in the NBA that didn't hate Riley already, they in fact do, and it just multiplied 10 fold. There are 29 other teams in the league that will have their head coaches get into them to not only play their best against the Heat, but to crush their very soul.
Finally a battle between Jackson and a worthy adversary, I can't wait for Riley's response.