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June 2, 2006

Pat Riley


Q. Can you talk just a little bit about what was going through your mind as that last minute was ticking down?
PAT RILEY: Finish. I'm always about just finishing and completing the task. You know, four, five minutes left to go in the game with a 17 or 18-point lead, a genuine feeling and sensation that you're going to get this done. It's always for me a harrowing ride because you just don't know what land mines or trap doors are going to open up along the way. But our guys came tonight and put the hammer down, period. That's it.
Detroit is an absolute great team. They've been the stronghold in the East for the last four years. They've been our nemesis the last three years, and in order for us to beat them they were going to have to put the hammer down, and that's what it was going to take. Our guys came out defensively and did that.
Q. Now that it's over, it's been a long haul for the franchise and it's been a long haul for you down here. Talk about how it feels to get to this point.
PAT RILEY: We've had a lot of near misses, unlucky bounces, suspensions. We've had very good teams that I thought were championship contenders. We had a major, major setback with Zo's kidney, when that set us back, and two years to rebuild. But ever since Shaquille O'Neal showed up on the scene, this team has been a legitimate contender, and we have put pieces around him. Obviously the drafting of Dwyane Wade and what he's become has sped the whole process up.
I just feel great that after 11 years, especially for Mickey, one of the great owners in this leak and committed to these fans and to this team that he's got a chance to win a championship. So once we take a day off and sort of gather ourselves, our work just begins.
Q. This team has so many story lines that sometimes we forget what a great human story Alonzo Mourning's story is. Could you tell us if you've talked to him or what have you felt from him or said to him?
PAT RILEY: Zo and I don't have to speak about that anymore. Zo and I are fused at the hip. He's the one that dragged me up out of my seat when I couldn't say something to the team at a very difficult time.
I know why he's here, he knows why I'm here, and I just -- I just want him to get -- to experience a championship. I mean, that would be -- 35 years old, 36 years old, these guys that haven't done it, that would be the greatest gift for me. It would. I mean, I'm just an old codger now, I mean it. The most important -- there's a lot of guys in that locker room, a lot of stories in that locker room, and they're very motivated about this opportunity.
Q. In light of the Dwyane Wade sickness before today's game and in light of Jason Williams' performance, did you make a conscious effort to ask your role players in general and maybe Jason in particular to be more aggressive at times? During the season it appeared that certain players just as Jason would pass off a lot and defer to the two superstars.
PAT RILEY: I think one of the things about this whole team, as they have been judged, and there's been a lot of witnesses out there that have followed the team and commented on the team, this team in spite of the characteristics of the players and the personalities, they've all sacrificed a tremendous amount. I mean, guys that came here and sacrificed money. Zo is playing for a minimum, Gary Payton is playing for the minimum. Antoine Walker took less than what he could get. There's a long list of players that have sacrificed not only financially but minutes, position, their egos, the kind of games they've had before, and while everybody has been sort of taking them apart, they have been quietly becoming a team.
Jason Williams has done exactly what we've asked him to do, which is to distribute the ball and make shots when he's open, and it wasn't me. I do know that the players one by one or at times have brought him aside, took him in and said you've got to be more aggressive, go for it, play your game. I think you saw his game tonight. It was at the right time, there's no doubt.
Q. Can you just talk about what a performance that was from Shaquille at a time when you needed it?
PAT RILEY: Well, he's very focused. This morning at the shoot-around when everybody knew that Dwyane -- we didn't know if he was really going to play tonight. We felt he'd be here, but I mean, Shaquille is Shaquille. We couldn't get him the ball enough. We couldn't straight post him up, so we started doing a lot of things to move him a little bit on pick-and-rolls so he could get the ball. He had 19 at halftime and nine rebounds, started the whole thing for us and made sure that we were organized. Without him, we probably wouldn't be there tonight. He had a great game.

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