Riley: Joining Lakers no longer an option

Updated: June 23, 2004, 8:50 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Miami Heat president Pat Riley confirmed Wednesday that he met with Los Angeles Lakers officials about their coaching vacancy, but stressed that no contract offers or demands were made.

Pat Riley

Riley, in a statement distributed by team officials, said a meeting took place after Lakers owner Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak asked for and received permission from Heat owner Micky Arison.

"During our discussion, which lasted a few hours, there was never any demands made by me nor was there ever an offer presented by them," Riley said in the statement. "It was simply a long philosophical discussion about the situation."

Riley did not specify when the meeting took place. On Saturday, he said through a Heat spokesman that he was seeking to extend his contract as Miami's president and that reports linking him with the Lakers' coaching search were merely "rumors."

Former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich has reportedly started talks with the Lakers. Tomjanovich, who resigned as Rockets coach a year ago to treat bladder cancer, met with Kupchak and Buss for about two hours on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

The 55-year-old Tomjanovich is thought to be the front-runner to succeed Phil Jackson, who helped the franchise win three NBA titles in five seasons. The announcement that Jackson wouldn't return next season was made last Friday, just three days after the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.

The Lakers hope to hire a new coach within a month or less. Kupchak says he plans to interview more than one candidate and fewer than 10 in a process that could take several weeks.

"We are in the process of trying to narrow down the coaching candidates and select a coach for this team," Kupchak told the Houston Chronicle in Wednesday's online edition. "I would hope this would happen sooner than later.

Riley, a winner of 1,110 games in 21 seasons, led the "Showtime" Lakers of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to titles in 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988. He also coached the New York Knicks (1991-95) and the Heat (1995-2003), resigning from the Miami job four days before last season began.

"I have great respect for the Lakers, Dr. Buss and Mitch Kupchak; they've built one of the premier franchises in the NBA," Riley's statement said. "For the past 34 years the Lakers have been a big part of my life and I would like to thank them for the opportunity to talk."

Riley called the meeting "a great trip down memory lane," and said he and the Lakers "mutually decided to end our conversation in regards to their situation."

"I am and will continue to be committed to building the Miami Heat in hopes of one day winning an NBA championship," Riley said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press