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MIAMI (AP) - Pat Riley is again the coach of the Miami Heat,
replacing Stan Van Gundy following his resignation Monday for
family reasons.
Riley, whom Van Gundy succeeded on the bench shortly before the
2003-04 season, will make his debut Tuesday night when Miami opens
a four-game road trip in Chicago.
"I will get back into this quickly," said Riley, the
60-year-old team president. He said he hasn't even looked at a
playbook for two years.
Riley coached the team from 1995-03 after winning four titles
with the Los Angeles Lakers and a stint with the New York Knicks.
Players were not available for immediate comment. The team left
for Chicago on Monday, shortly before the news conference
announcing the shake-up and learning of Van Gundy's decision.
Van Gundy said he resigned voluntarily.
"I made this decision for one reason and one reason only: I
love my family," Van Gundy said. He said that because of travel,
games and practices, he would have seen his children at home only
49 days out of 170 this season.
Riley's eyes welled with tears as Van Gundy announced the
reasons for his decision. Van Gundy said Riley has tried for weeks
to persuade him to stay.
"It came down to a choice, and for me, the choice was clear,"
Van Gundy said.
He said he will remain in the organization, and insisted he had
no desire to coach elsewhere in the NBA.
Van Gundy's job status was the subject of speculation in South
Florida for months, starting when Riley - his mentor - said shortly
after the Heat's 2005 playoff run ended that he may take a larger
role in the team's day-to-day operations.
That comment, which seemed innocuous at the time, set off
speculation that Riley was planning to dismiss Van Gundy and take
over a team with two of the NBA's biggest stars, Shaquille O'Neal
and Dwyane Wade, in his quest to bring the Heat their first title.
This year, the team was in first place but with only a 11-10
record, although without O'Neal for 18 of those games because the
12-time All-Star had a badly sprained right ankle. Rumors that Van
Gundy's job may be in jeopardy continued to swirl.
The 46-year-old Van Gundy left with a regular-season record of
112-73. Riley has won 1,110 games in 21 seasons as a coach, plus
led the "Showtime" Lakers of Magic Johnson and Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar to titles in 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988. He also
coached the Knicks (1991-95).
Van Gundy was Riley's top assistant for eight seasons, getting
the top job shortly before the 2003-04 campaign when Riley walked
into his office unexpectedly and told him he was stepping aside.
And now, in a move perhaps not so unexpected but certainly just
as sudden, Van Gundy is gone, hours after leading the Heat to an
overtime win over Washington on Sunday night.
The move came nearly four years to the day after Jeff Van Gundy,
Stan's younger brother, resigned as Knicks coach 19 games into the
2001-02 season. Jeff Van Gundy, now the Houston Rockets coach, said
at the time he'd lost his focus and thought about quitting since
that summer.
"The question I've always had for him is 'why did you go
back,"' Stan Van Gundy said.
Before coming to the Heat, Van Gundy had college stints at
Vermont, Castleton State, Canisius, Fordham, Massachusetts-Lowell
and Wisconsin. When Riley joined the Heat, Van Gundy came with him
- in large part because his brother, Jeff, was under contract to
the New York Knicks and couldn't stay on Riley's staff.
His first season as head coach didn't get off to a good start,
with the Heat losing Van Gundy's first seven games. But with Wade
leading a talented nucleus of young players, Miami finished that
season 42-40 and as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference
That summer, Riley sent three players to Los Angeles for O'Neal
- part of three championships with the Lakers. Van Gundy coached
the Heat to a second consecutive season of a 17-win improvement,
getting them to 59-23 and guiding them to the Southeast Division
title and to the East finals.

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