NBA CHAMPIONSHIP : LAKERS VS. CELTICS : Notebook : Pat Riley Is No Longer Just That Lucky Stiff

Times Staff Writers

Into every coach's career, a little praise must fall. Especially when his team has been rebuilt in one year, with minimal personnel changes, from a semifinalist into a candidate to be known as one of the all-time great champions.

Thus Pat Riley, sometimes written off as that lucky stiff who was handed all this talent, is now getting a lot of credit for the Laker renaissance.

Did it bother him when he wasn't?

"I think the first couple of years, I was a little sensitive to it," Riley said Saturday. "I look back and realize I didn't deserve it.

"I think you have to pay your dues. Now I don't think I'm seen as a guy who got lucky, a flash in the pan."

How long will he continue?

"I can see myself doing this 20 years. I love it. There ain't nothing else I want to do and there ain't nothing else I'm capable of doing, probably.

"When I started coaching, I thought I was going to be a broadcaster. I was an interim coach (after Paul Westhead was fired) for two weeks. Then we wound up winning the championship. The next year, we lost the championship, and I said, 'This is over with.'

"The next year, we lost the seven-game series (to the Celtics) and I figured, 'For sure, this is over with.'

"But my owner gave me a new contract after we were swept by Houston (beaten in five last season, actually). I grabbed it like then. I don't know if I'd do that again. It was smart negotiating."

From Will McDonough of the Boston Globe:

"After the Lakers complete their destruction of the Celtics, I don't want to hear all this noise that the local basketball entry should break up the team. . . . They said the same thing in 1983 when the Celtics got blown away by Milwaukee in four.

"That year the Sixers were invincible, going through the regular season with one of the great records ever and through the playoffs with only one loss, wiping out the Lakers in four straight. The Sixers were revered then like the Lakers are now, and they haven't been back to the finals since."

Does Leonard Armato say Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would want a significant raise for a two-year contract?

Is there speculation that the Lakers would then pursue David Robinson if he's a free agent in two years?

The two projects could go hand-in-hand. Under the current salary cap rules (subject to the new bargaining agreement to be negotiated this summer), the Lakers could take one-half of a retiring player's salary and offer it to a new player.

Thus, if Abdul-Jabbar were raised from his present $2 million annually to, say, $3 million, the Lakers could then offer Robinson $1.5 million in 1990-91.

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