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Pat Riley always thankful that Jerry Buss said 'yes' to him

February 21, 2013|By Eric Pincus

Former Lakers Coach and Miami Heat President Pat Riley reminisced about the late Jerry Buss on Thursday before he spoke at Buss' memorial service.

"It’s just a forever and for-always relationship," Riley said. "I just think he was an incredible person."

Riley worked for the Lakers before Buss purchased the team, both as a player and broadcaster.

"It was a new paradigm -- a new Laker paradigm -- when [Buss] showed up and bought the team 1979-1980," Riley said. "He just brought the best in everybody. He gave me an incredible opportunity. He encouraged me to do a lot of different things and we had a lot of good times together."

Riley, an assistant coach at the time, wasn't initially chosen to be the head coach after the Lakers fired Paul Westhead early into the 1981-82 season.

"Jerry West was supposed to be the head coach, and Jerry said he didn't want it," Riley said. "I said, 'Well if nobody wants it, I'll take it.'"

"It was all on an interim basis for a while," he continued. "[Buss] made Jerry go down on the bench with me for about three weeks to make sure I didn't blow this $100-million asset.  We won like 12 games in a row or something like that, and here I am today."

Riley is forever grateful that Buss took a chance on him.

"I got a great opportunity when Jerry West asked him, can Pat take over -- he said yes," Riley said. "He said yes to me, and I'm always thankful for that."

Riley would go on to win four titles as head coach with the Lakers -- five including his 2006 championship with the Heat.

"[Buss] really let all of us know if there's an opportunity out there and you've got it -- don't blow it," Riley said.

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Kobe Bryant says the Lakers need to 'carry on' Jerry Buss' vision

Dwight Howard says he's going to trust Mitch Kupchak about future

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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