Pat Riley Quits Lakers After 4 Titles, 9 Seasons

From Times Wire Services

Pat Riley, whose slick hair and elegant suits epitomized the “Showtime” style of his Los Angeles Laker teams, resigned as coach today after four NBA titles in nine seasons.

Mike Dunleavy, assistant coach in Milwaukee, will replace Riley despite never having been a head coach in the league. Announcement of the move was made at a news conference by Riley, General Manager Jerry West and Dunleavy.

Riley, whose motivational speeches and critical comments wore thin with many of his players, had two years remaining of a contract that paid him $650,000 plus incentives in 1989-90.

He is said to be joining NBC as an NBA analyst. Riley recently met with the network that will televise league games the next four seasons. An NBC source hinted that Riley will join the network, which does not plan to name its analysts until after the NBA Finals.


Riley leaves with a 533-194 record. His winning percentage of 73.3 is the best in NBA history, and his 102 playoff triumphs are also a league standard. The Lakers won an NBA-high 63 games this season, and Riley was rewarded with his first Coach of the Year honor. But Los Angeles was eliminated in five games by Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals.

Dunleavy, a former NBA guard, last played regularly in 1984-85. He was activated three times during the past two seasons for 10-day stretches.

West was impressed with Dunleavy’s basketball knowledge and rapport with players. The general manager sought someone from outside the organization when Riley’s decision to quit was final.

Riley’s nine seasons with the Lakers left him second in tenure with the same team. Denver’s Doug Moe has coached the Nuggets for a decade.


Riley’s 102 career playoff victories make him the winningest coach in league playoff history. Under Riley, the Lakers were 102-47 in playoff games.

But following the Lakers’ early exit from this year’s playoffs, reports surfaced of rifts between Riley and West and between Riley and some of his players.

The Lakers had an NBA-best 63-19 regular-season record--the third-best in team history--but players reportedly were beginning to tire of Riley’s motivational tactics and hard-driving practices.

And The Times has reported that a source in the Lakers organization said Riley and West clashed after the best-of-7 playoff series with Phoenix, which the Suns won in five games.


Riley was broadcaster Chick Hearn’s color commentator for two seasons before being tapped as an assistant to then-coach Paul Westhead in November, 1979. Riley took over the team when Westhead was fired 11 games into the 1981-82 season and guided the Lakers to the NBA title that season.

That championship was followed by three more, in 1985, 1987 and 1988. It was in 1987 when Riley guaranteed the Lakers would become the first NBA team to repeat as champions since the Boston Celtics did so in 1969.