Miami Heat: Why They Need Pat Riley, Not Erik Spoelstra

Sam LContributor IIMarch 10, 2011

MIAMI - JULY 09:  Head coach Erik Spoelstra (L) and President Pat Riley (R)  of the Miami Heat talk during a press conference after a welcome party for new teammates LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Pat Riley is a six time NBA Champion as a coach, has a .636 career winning percentage and 1208 career regular season wins.

He's also coached a few egos in his time, to say the least. Names like Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Patrick Ewing come to mind. He also led the Miami Heat to one of his six championships in the 2005-2006 season.

As the team president, Riley also went about acquiring a few average players this past off-season—their names are something like LeBrosh or Chrisames or something along those lines. He also brought back his franchise player, Dwyane Wade (I know his name).

Erik Spoelstra has had two and a half years as a head coach of the Miami Heat. He has compiled a not-so-wowing .586 win percentage and two first-round playoff eliminations.

While Mr. Spoelstra was certainly involved in wooing LeBron and Chris Bosh to South Beach, Riley was clearly the mastermind. Spoelstra has so much talent in Miami, it's ridiculous.

I'm definitely not one to instantly call it a lost season if the Heat end up as the No. 3 seed in the East and don't win 60 games. However, with the recent five-game losing streak, it seems like the perfect time to do what many people believed was inevitable—fire Spoelstra and bring back Pat Riley.

Spoelstra's short stint with the Three Kings of South Beach and nine other role players was ridden with controversy, streaky play and lacked the success that was promised to Heat fans before the year even started.

He hasn't handled media pressure well, most recently seen in "Crygate," where he made the ridiculous decision to mention to the media, who were itching for a big story on the struggling Heat, that the players were crying.

The Heat are currently sitting at 43-21, third place in the East and four games back of the leading Celtics. Not really all that shabby—a position every team in the East other than the Bulls would love to be in, but seemingly much more shabby when you look at the Heat's roster. (Those LeBron, Wade and Bosh kids I was talking about earlier, not to mention James Jones, the NBA's three-point champion.)

But what's even more of a prevalent reason to ax Spoelstra is his inability to win games late, or win games at all against talented teams.

The Heat are 1-for-18 on shots in the final 10 seconds of a game. Six of those misses come courtesy of LeBron James and more than half of those six were not good looks.

Can LeBron not actually get a good look at the rim? Can the coach not see that the team is slumping and give the ball elsewhere, like to the clutchest player on the team, Dwyane Wade—or to the hot shooter like Chalmers was against the Bulls last Sunday?


Rather, shockingly, LeBron got the last shot even though he'd had an off game.

He got locked down by Joakim Noah, missed and allowed the Heat's losing streak to stretch to four games—which would be extended to five by the Blazers on Tuesday.

Riley can win in the clutch, in close games. He has six championship rings to prove it. Just look at the Heat's title in '06. Wade led the team back on multiple occasions in the NBA Finals against the Mavericks and got the team to the Finals with clutch performance after clutch performance.

The Heat were down 0-2 and down 13 points with six minutes to go in Game 3. Had they lost that game, their title dreams would have been all but over. Instead, Wade scored 42 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Gary Payton dropped in a game-winning three, while Dirk Nowitzki missed a free throw—something he almost never did.

Shaquille O'Neal is one of the league's historically bad free throw shooters—and yet, when the team needed him to hit free throws from the charity stripe late-on in games, he managed it. Was it his superstar mentality, or did having a great coach like Riley help him be clutch?

That's exactly what the Heat need—to be clutch. The playoffs should be a whole different story from the regular season, since not many teams can run with the Heat on every other night over the course of a seven-game series. However, if the Heat can't close out double-digit leads against decent teams then it could be an issue.

Bringing Riley down to end the year and take the Heat to the Promised Land seems like a good idea. After all, he's done it before. Plus, the players (and their egos) love him, he definitely doesn't crack under media pressure and, as Pat himself said: "Look for your choices, pick the best one, then go with it."

Well, coach Riley, you're the best choice.