"I have thought [about returning to the Lakers] only from a sentimental standpoint," Riley told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan. "But I was never pursued by them. Nobody officially contacted me. I have about 20 friends wishing I would come back, but nobody asked.
"They had Magic. When you are in the position that Earvin was in, when you turn over the organization to somebody like him, there's only one person who can say no to you. That's your owner. It's the same for me here in Miami. If [Heat owner] Micky Arison says no, that's it. Now, that doesn't mean I don't have power. But when others find a way to gain influence to do this or say that, it gets a little dicey."
Riley's interview with MacMullan came following Magic Johnson's appearance on ESPN's First Take on Monday, during which Johnson levied harsh criticisms at general manager Rob Pelinka. Johnson, who resigned as Lakers president in April, said Pelinka "backstabbed" him and spoke about him behind his back during their time working together.
Pelinka is now the Lakers' primary decision maker. Riley said he was not surprised by Johnson's criticisms.
"Surprised by his comments? No, not at all," Riley told ESPN. "I'll tell you about Earvin—and it's what I love about him, but also what I have cautioned him about—he's going to speak his mind. If that's how he felt, that's how he felt.
"He's not going to leave a hanging curveball out there about backstabbing and whispering. He manned up today. That's who 'Buck' is. He would never tolerate that. He never has tolerated that."
Riley, 74, played for the Lakers during the 1970s and later took over as their head coach during the Showtime era. The Lakers won four NBA championships under Riley.
However, Riley has now been with the Miami Heat organization since 1995. He began his role leading basketball operations and as head coach in 1995, briefly retiring in 2003 before taking over again as head coach in 2005. The Heat won the 2006 NBA championship with Riley as head coach and then won the 2012 and 2013 titles with Riley back in the executive suite.
Riley is one of the most successful basketball minds in NBA history, though it's unclear if he'd be an improvement right now in Los Angeles. His track record since LeBron James left has been shaky at best and included a falling out with franchise star Dwyane Wade, though they eventually reconciled their differences.
The fact that no one in the Lakers front office even contacted Riley, though, should be a surprise. Their front office has been in turmoil for the better part of a half decade, and Riley at the very least could have commanded respect and stability at the top.