Pat Riley was in a sour mood after his Miami Heat were smoked by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. In his end of the year press conference, the team’s president opened by informing the media that he was “pissed” before launching into a diatribe about other great franchises and how many times they failed to reach their ultimate goal.
“This stuff is hard, and you’ve got to stay together if you’ve got the guts” Riley said. “You don’t find the first door and run out of it.”
Those comments were a bit of a direct shot at LeBron James, who was a few weeks away from informing Riley that he would indeed be exiting out of that door and making a return to Cleveland. The Big 3 era in Miami would come to an end after four seasons and two championships, but Riley believes it could have been so much more.
In a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Dan LeBatard that’s set to run in its entirety on Sunday, Riley said that that iteration of the Heat, one with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, could’ve been a “10-year team.”
“When LeBron made that call (that he leaving), I saw a dynasty fly out the window,” Riley said. “I didn’t blame him, but I knew that was a 10-year team. It was just a sad day for me and for our franchise, because I wanted that dynasty.”
Riley also said he doesn’t hold any anger toward James, and chalks up some of his subtle shots at James in the years after his departure, like when he said “no more smiling faces with hidden agendas” in a presser in 2015, to “instantaneous insanity.”
Who knows how many more championships the Heat would’ve won had that Big 3 remained intact. Bosh’s fight with blood clots began in February of 2015. The Golden State Warriors ascent to basketball royalty began that same year. The Heat very well many have not won another chip had LeBron stayed, but Riley, perhaps understandably so, certainly still holds some regrets that the Big 3 didn’t stick together for longer.