A tie for fourth place for Pat Riley in the voting released Thursday for 2022 NBA Executive of the Year did not change a more significant reality in the eyes of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
“I mean Pat is on the Mount Rushmore of executives,” Spoelstra said ahead of his team’s Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, “and he should always be in the consideration every single year, because he kind of sets the blueprint, and he’s been able to do it so many different times, and then do it when people think that you can’t.”
Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Zach Kleiman was named winner of the 2022 award, in the voting of fellow executives. The Chicago Bulls’ Artūras Karnišovas and Cleveland Cavaliers’ Koby Altman tied for second, with Riley and the Phoenix Suns’ James Jones tying for fourth.
Among the Heat’s front-office moves were the offseason additions of Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker, Markieff Morris, Caleb Martin and Omer Yurtseven, as well as the re-signing of Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmon. The Heat also converted the two-way contracts of Max Strus and Gabe Vinceint to standard contracts from their previous two-way deals.
Spoelstra said the praise for the team’s front office runs deep, including General Manager Andy Elisburg and his salary-cap machinations.
“And then Andy and his staff are a major part of that,” Spoelstra said. “Even when any of us think that those cap logistics doesn’t seem like it will add up, Andy will find a creative loophole or way to make things work.
“And then all the scouting department, everybody’s on the same page. We know what works in our building; we know what doesn’t. It doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes, but we have great confidence in our front office.”
The irony of the tie is that Riley was among those who encouraged Jones, a former Heat championship player, to pursue a front-office career.
“How many guys has Pat mentored, coaching and front office?” Spoelstra asked. “I’m in there all the time where somebody will be calling him about advice.
“And Pat, they don’t have recognition like this, but if they ever did, he easily could be Hall of Fame in both, as coach in this league and as an executive, on its own. That’s how good he is.”
Of Riley’s message resonating among those recruited by the team, Spoelstra said it is an enduring message.
“Pat’s a visionary,” he said. “He’s a force of nature. Like he has 50 years of experience in this league, at the highest level, and he has had as much success in this league as anyone.
“He has a blueprint and he has a way of making things happen.
“But he’s also adapted. You don’t have this kind of success if you haven’t adapted over the years. And I think that’s one of the things that gets overlooked a lot. He’s reinvented how we do it and how we put together teams, over and over and over.”