Photo courtesy of ESPN.com.
Each stop on Riley's coaching journey has been a wildly successful one, but the way he's reached that success has been anything but consistent.
As the brains behind the Lakers' "Showtime" attack, his team overwhelmed the opposition with an offensive barrage that they just couldn't match. During Riley's eight-year tenure, the Lakers never finished outside of the top five in offensive rating and held the category's No. 1 spot six different times.
"We didn’t care who we were playing, we didn’t care how many points we were down," Magic Johnson told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap. "Our whole goal was to run you into the ground.”
But when Riley took over the Knicks for the 1991-92 season, he hit the ground running as a defensive guru. New York had the best defensive rating in three of his four seasons, finishing with the second-best mark in his debut campaign.
Riley's assistant in the Big Apple, Jeff Van Gundy, says this transformation was hardly a surprise. As Van Gundy saw it, the high-powered offense he left behind in L.A. was the real shocker.
"L.A. was his alter ego," Van Gundy said. "At heart, he's a scrapper, fighter, angry passionate."
Getting a little dirt (or even blood) on those Armani suits didn't seem to bother Riley at all.
"We're going to be the best-conditioned, hardest-working, most professional, unselfish, toughest, nastiest, most disliked team in the NBA," he said.
By the time he landed in Miami for the 1995-96 season, he really had the best of both worlds.
His Heat teams had just as much fight in them as his Knicks had, but they could score points in bunches when needed. During the third year of his stay in South Beach, the Heat cracked the top 10 in both offensive and defensive ratings.
For Riley, though, only one statistic mattered.
"There's winning," Riley told Sports On Earth's Shaun Powell, "and there's misery."
That's why he molded his methods around his players however he needed in pursuit of the game's most glorious gift.