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How Come Riley Threw the Book at the Celtics?

April 30, 1988

While reading about Pat Riley's scathing attack on Boston in general and the Celtics in particular in his forthcoming book, I wondered what provoked such bitterness.

Hard fouls? Riley must be remembering Kevin McHale's so-called takedown of Kurt Rambis in the heat of a championship game. He may be forgetting James Worthy's retaliatory shove in the back of a Celtic, which sent that player into the basket support. And he may be forgetting Mike Smrek, the current Laker enforcer, whose hard fouling hardly brings dignity to the team.

As for the incident in Boston in which fanatics set ablaze a car, a clear-headed person would realize that it reflects on true Celtic fans about as much as drive-by shootings reflect on Laker fans.

No, Riley's case is more ranting than logic. (Riley claims the Celtics are Klingons; more likely beneath that moussed hair of his lurks the brain of a Tribble.) He smarts because the Celtics were called the courageous team for taking the Lakers to six games last year despite a rash of injuries. He has been upset that many people say his success in the NBA comes not from his coaching ability but from the talent of his all-star players. He has accused those people of being envious, of sour grapes.

But perhaps Riley is the one staring at sour grapes. Perhaps he's still sore over lack of respect, not realizing that there are a half a dozen coaches currently in the NBA, among them K. C. Jones, Doug Moe and Chuck Daly, who could have guided the Lakers just as successfully.

Riley has displayed varying degrees of smugness in his career, but with his I'm-a-genius-and-any-one-who-doesn't-acknowledge-it-is-just-envious attitude, he has crossed the line to narcissism. With his ill-thought book and its generalizations against the people of Boston, he has shown that he has yet to recognize the limits of his own intelligence. Riley should leave social commentary to others and stick to what he knows best: Dressing well and projecting smarminess.


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