Stan Van Gundy Fires Back at Pat Riley
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy shot back Saturday at Heat president Pat Riley -- his former boss -- escalating their summertime war of words that should carry into this season and beyond.
As if there was any doubt, they really don't like each other, each questioning the other's integrity.
After reading Riley's remarks Friday that were critical of both him and Magic general manager Otis Smith -- who had previously questioned why LeBron James would come to Miami -- Van Gundy turned the tables, questioning the way Riley is passing judgment on others.
Riley may have brought Van Gundy into the NBA as an assistant in 1995, but those days of appreciation are long gone. It was Riley, as team president, who fired Van Gundy as head coach and replaced him in 2005, taking the Heat to a championship that season. It also was Riley who tried to block the Magic from hiring Van Gundy in 2007 because he was still on the Miami payroll.
"Pat getting onto other people for making moral judgments made me laugh," Van Gundy told John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. "I was with Pat (in Miami) when we had all of those Knicks series, and he had no problem making moral judgments on my brother (Jeff Van Gundy, who was coaching the Knicks). What I read into that was that I guess Pat is the only one allowed to make those moral judgments and the rest of us can't do that. I guess we didn't realize that Pat's the only one allowed to do that."
Smith, much like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and several other former NBA players, questioned why James would leave Cleveland to join Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Riley called some of Smith's remarks, "absolutely stupid."
"Pat's thing calling Otis' remarks stupid, I don't think they were any different than what several ex-players who played when Otis did had to say. They looked at the game differently back then and backed up what we said," Van Gundy told Denton. "The position LeBron and Bosh took isn't necessarily wrong, but it's different from what (Michael) Jordan, Magic (Johnson) and Larry Bird would have done. Otis was a part of that generation – he wasn't at that level – but that's the way those players looked at (James and Bosh going to Miami). Those (former players) wouldn't have tried to team up. So what Otis said wasn't a stupid remark. Unless of course you have a different opinion than Pat, then apparently it's stupid."
Riley had been quiet this summer since his much-celebrated free agent signings of James, Wade and Bosh, listening to the fallout that included criticism from around the league for the way James had handled it.
It wasn't until Friday that he cut loose during a conference call with reporters from South Florida. He ripped into television analyst Charles Barkley, who referred to the celebratory press conference as "punk moves." And while taking on everyone who had been critical of his team, Riley specifically pointed to Van Gundy and Smith.
"I take a little umbrage to some of the things that came from people in our game who, all of a sudden, have become the moral conscious or moral authority on the decision of every team or some individual might make," Riley said Friday. "I know one thing: Our team will be ready. And I think that's the way we can answer all the critics."
While players from Miami and Orlando have not joined the war of words yet between the two teams, it shouldn't take long before they do. The two teams meet in the final exhibition game and again during the first week of the regular season.