Pat Riley felt “tremendous anger” when LeBron James left South Beach and went back home to Ohio in 2014, but Riley concedes that James made the right move for himself and his family.
Pat Riley breaks news in my upcoming book, The Soul of Basketball: https://t.co/bWOTv9PSLO
— Ian Thomsen (@IanThomsen) April 9, 2018
LeBron won a pair of titles in Miami, but Riley felt the Heat could have collected “five or six championships” had the team stayed intact.
“I had two to three days of tremendous anger. I was absolutely livid, which I expressed to myself and my closest friends,” Riley said.
“My beautiful plan all of a sudden came crashing down,” Riley said. “That team in ten years could have won five or six championships. But I get it. I get the whole chronicle of [LeBron’s] life.
“While there may have been some carnage always left behind when he made these kinds of moves, in Cleveland and also in Miami, he did the right thing. I just finally came to accept the realization that he and his family said, ‘You’ll never, ever be accepted back in your hometown if you don’t go back to try to win a title. Otherwise someday you’ll go back there and have the scarlet letter on your back. You’ll be the greatest player in the history of mankind, but back there, nobody’s really going to accept you.'”
Riley also reveals that James tried to coax him back into coaching in 2010, though he ultimately stuck with Erik Spoelstra.
“The Soul of Basketball” takes us one step further. Riley revealed in the book that the day after the Heat’s loss to Dallas, he asked James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to meet him in his office for 10 minutes to check on how the team leaders felt the young season was progressing.
“They just said, ‘We’re not feeling it,’ or something like that,” Riley told Thomsen. “We talked about the typical things that we have to do, have patience and all of that stuff.
“And I remember LeBron looking at me, and he said, ‘Don’t you ever get the itch?’ I said, ‘The itch for what?’ He said, ‘The itch to coach again?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t have the itch.’ He didn’t ask any more questions, and I didn’t offer any more answers. But I know what it meant, and I always go back and wonder about what he was thinking at that time. He walked out scratching his leg like it was itching.”