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Scott Ostler

This New Addition Changing Life and Life Styles of Rileys

May 29, 1985|SCOTT OSTLER

Patrick James Riley and James Patrick Riley watch a lot of television together. Pat stretches out on the living room floor, and James stretches out on Pat's chest.

For hours on end they watch basketball games, re-running every play, studying, wearing serious expressions.

"It's great," Pat Riley says. "I've got a guy to sit up with me at night and watch videotape.

"He says, 'Hey Dad, how come you never play McGee?' 'Hey Dad, how come you called a timeout there?' 'Hey Dad, how come you never get credit for coaching the Laker team?' "

This is pretty perceptive, coming from a kid who is a little over 3 months old.

James Patrick is the son of Pat and Chris Riley. Pat coaches the Lakers. Chris, formerly a marriage and family counselor, runs the home.

They decided a few years ago they wanted children. None were forthcoming, so they made plans to adopt. Then came the waiting.

In early February, the wait ended.

The phone call came. Within 15 minutes, Pat and Chris were out the door, on their way to pick up their son.

"Smiling like two kids going to the prom," Pat says.

Remember the Harry Chapin song, "Cat's in the Cradle"? It starts, "My child arrived just the other day. He came into the world in the usual way . . . "

James Patrick came into his new world in a chauffeured limo, by way of Venice beach.

"Some good friends of ours arranged for the car to bring us home," Pat says. "We had champagne, and we said, 'Let's give James a look at the beach,' so we went to Venice.

"It was around sunset, it was a glorious day. We stood on the strand and we were immediately surrounded by a street gang, 15 or 20 guys, demanding autographs."

Riley declined, but the Laker fans became somewhat indignant, so he shrugged and signed.

"Baby James was almost a victim of West Side Story, without the dancing," Riley said.

When the Rileys arrived home, friends and family were waiting in the front yard. As the limo pulled into the driveway, Pat rolled back the sunroof and lifted James to greet his fans.

And so it was that one of Hollywood's most glamorous young couples entered the world of diaper changing, burping and 4 a.m. feedings.

Maybe the timing of James' arrival could have been better. Riley was heavily involved in the NBA season, and Chris was heavily involved with her outside interests, and with keeping sanity in her husband's life.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, how are we going to do it now ?' " Chris said. "But it turned out to be a wonderful time. This is something we've wanted for such a long time, and I think that makes it sweeter.

"Also, we're lucky enough to be able to afford help, and we were prepared emotionally. I did my master's (thesis) on the effect of the first child on the relationship of the parents.

"Our feeling going in was, 'We don't care how tough it gets, it's something we want. And we want a few more. At least one more, and I could see three.' "

Harry Chapin's song was about a father who never could find time for his son. "There were planes to catch, bills to pay . . . "

When James arrived, Pat had planes to catch and a team to coach through the most intense period of the season.

"We thought that might be a problem, but James has been a calmer-downer for me," Riley said. "After games, I can't wait to come home, play with him, talk to him. He's a great person in this house, he's added a new dimension in life.

"Maybe I'm calmer now because I've relaxed into my job to a certain extent. At first (three seasons ago) I was like a live high-tension wire cut loose. I'd react to anything. Even though I still think basketball 24 hours a day, there are external balances creeping in.

"I still take every loss hard, savor every win, but now I have more reason to enjoy. I don't think children change your life, when you're into parenthood. It's true that the foot-loose, fancy-free times are curtailed, but they are taken over by other things, other feelings.

"Chris and I have been together since 1967. We've done everything, been everywhere, seen everything a young couple could do and see. We were ready for this. We were aching for it."

Even the frequent wake-up calls were no problem.

"James is out of the crying stage now; he's becoming stable, like the coach," Riley said. "He has very few technical fouls, no tantrums on the sidelines.

"The first couple months he was up every couple hours. I'd night-patrol a lot. I didn't mind. It was nice, it really was. We'd hear him cry and we'd race each other through the house to see who would get to pick him up."

Naturally the kid is a sharp dresser. When Chris and Pat picked up their son that first day, they brought along a smart, Italian-cut baby outfit. But the new suit didn't fit, so they brought James home in what he was already wearing.

"Georgio Armani, he wasn't looking like," Riley said.

Added Chris: "When Pat comes home, it's a riot. He changes James right away, puts the clothes he wants on his son. All cotton, natural fabrics. He knows what colors he likes."

When baby James spit up on the shoulder of his father's $600-silk suit recently, Dad said, "Isn't that cute?"

Friday afternoon, the day before the Lakers left for Boston, James Patrick and Patrick were in their living room, in their favorite TV-watching position.

"It would be a nice year," Riley was saying. "Win the All-Star game . . . Get a new contract . . . Get a new kid . . . Win the world championship . . .

"Every man should have one of those years."

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