Van Gundy feels bad for Spoelstra

Updated: May 4, 2010, 8:30 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The idea that Miami Heat president Pat Riley would float the possibility of returning as the team's coach isn't sitting well with the man who used to work for him.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said Tuesday that he wished Riley would have kept the comments private because of the impact it might have on Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Spoelstra was an assistant under Van Gundy in Miami, and the two remain friends.

Van Gundy I feel bad for Erik. I know what will happen now. That's an offseason of speculation on whether or not Pat's going to coach. I think that makes it tough on [Spoelstra], so I feel bad for him.

-- Magic coach Stan Van Gundy

"I feel bad for Erik," Van Gundy said. "I know what will happen now. That's an offseason of speculation on whether or not Pat's going to coach. I think that makes it tough on [Spoelstra], so I feel bad for him."

Van Gundy should know.

He dealt with similar speculation in 2005 after Riley said earlier that summer he wanted to "take a little bit more of an active participation" with the Heat. That began a firestorm of conjecture that Riley would come back to the bench and replace Van Gundy as coach.

Van Gundy later resigned as Heat coach 21 games into the 2005-06 season, citing personal and family reasons. Riley took over, leading the Heat to their first championship.

With the Heat hoping to re-sign Dwyane Wade and lure other All-Stars this summer, Riley wouldn't completely rule out a return to the sideline in his end-of-season news conference Monday. Miami will have enough salary-cap space to not only re-sign Wade but also potentially acquire two star-level players to join him.

"If I were to leave the team and go somewhere else in a year or two from now, if I got tired of reading books on the beach, excuse me, the Kindle, I might want to coach again," Riley said. "I don't know. But don't say that I won't ever do that or that I can't do it. If I say yes or no, then you get condemned for it.

"I'll do whatever is in the best interest of building the team here. Period," Riley added. "Whatever it takes, OK? I'll let you fill in the blanks. ... If some free agent were to say 'I will come here but you must do this,' well, hell, if that happens that day, then I might have to give it some thought."

What seemed to bother Van Gundy was the fodder that could be levied about Spoelstra's status.

Spoelstra worked his way up from the video room on Riley's staff to an assistant coach under Van Gundy, ultimately becoming Riley's hand-picked replacement. Spoelstra has a 90-74 record, guiding Miami to the playoffs twice, though not past the first round.

Van Gundy and Spoelstra are still close. Even though they coach opposing Southeast Division teams, the pair often talk by phone or send text messages to each other.

"I didn't see it coming," Van Gundy said of Riley's comments. "I don't get surprised by too much, either."

NBA commissioner David Stern also weighed in on Riley.

Stern was in Orlando to announce that the NBA All-Star Game would be heading to the city in 2012. The commissioner doesn't think Riley is coming back to coaching anytime soon -- but maybe one day.

"He looks great. I had a chance to visit with him in Miami last week. He looks calm. He looks rested. He actually looks happy. You're suggesting he wants to give that up?" Stern said, chuckling. "Well, I guess all I would say is that he's an NBA lifer, and so it's interesting to contemplate."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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