Miami Ever the perfectionist, Pat Riley expects to be at his best when the Miami Heat open the postseason Saturday night. It's a tall order, especially for a coach with much more than basketball on his mind.
There's never a good time for any family to be burdened with a medical crisis. But instead of spending this week studying scouting reports and getting ready for the playoffs, Riley spent four days in upstate New York, tending to his ailing mother, Mary, 96.
He returned to the team Thursday, two days from starting the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls - 10-1 in their last 11 games.
But the Bulls are hardly the only daunting challenge facing Riley these days.
"It's difficult, but you deal with it. Family is part of your life," said Riley, who had assistant coach Ron Rothstein coach the season's final two games. "And so, I did what I had to do in New York. ... The last four days was about a family crisis. Now it's about Chicago, moving on and trying to get this job done here."
Riley did not divulge any details of his mother's illness, other than saying "the situation is about as good as it can be right now."
The same may not necessarily hold true for his team.
Yes, Miami has the No. 2 seed in the East playoffs after a drama-filled season that saw Shaquille O'Neal miss 18 of the team's first 21 games with a sprained ankle. The Heat went only 11-10 in that stretch, after which coach Stan Van Gundy resigned, saying he wanted to spend more time with his children and family.
Riley took over, and Miami won 37 of its next 50 games. But the Heat finished April with a 4-7 record, albeit with O'Neal and Dwyane Wade - the team's superstars - playing either sparingly or not at all in the final three games, all losses.
"I put no credence into how we finished at all," Riley said.
Riley's 155 postseason wins are the second-most in NBA history, 20 behind Phil Jackson. No one has coached more playoff games than his 255. And he's been to the NBA Finals eight times, winning four rings.
"I don't think there's any doubt," Riley said, "that this team probably represents the best chance this franchise has ever had to win a championship."