Thursday, May 04, 2017

Pat Riley and the PURSUIT of "Happiness."

I read this a couple of days ago and now forget where. I've been so goddamned busy. Credit wherever credit is due.

Pat Riley is a compelling figure to me, always has been. Grates on me occasionally, bird pumps, but don't we all. He is a deep man. 72 years old now and still driven, obsessed, tortured, Riley instantiates, for me, America's birth curse, the pursuit of happiness.

"These past months have been an emotional time to be around him; the public highs and lows have been mirrored by the most difficult private challenge he's ever faced. Not long ago he said the scariest thing in the world was "extinction," or the emptiness that might swallow him if he ever managed to leave basketball behind, which he's considering. Waiting out the start of the game, we circle a familiar subject: There are changes he'd like to make in his life, if he could ever escape the seductive rhythms of the NBA calendar. The prayer cards being passed out downstairs have a quote on the back, part of which asks: Will I lie down or will I fight? For the past 50 years, and especially this season, that question has been central to Riley's daily life, a man perpetually seeking out
opportunities to prove himself worthy of his reputation. The problem is that every time he proves himself, he puts off his future by another day.

"The next year, [after James left] the Heat missed the playoffs, Riley consumed with self-doubt, his own mind whispering that he'd stayed too long.

"He dreams of a different life, and not in an abstract way. He sees it, down to the taste of the dinner he'll eat and the music he'll play."
 "His inside is as messy and complex as his outside is manicured and defined.

"The game is never gonna be over," Peter said.

"His friends have been wondering for years when he'd head west, all of them following the internal conflict they've come to know as Miami vs. Malibu. "I love the schism because that's all he talks about," says his friend, the actor Michael Douglas. "That's all he talks about, getting back to Malibu to that house."

"One of his many dreams is for the family to have a compound, for Pat and Chris to have a house, and for James and Elisabeth to each have one too. That vision got him through many long seasons and those lonely nights in hotel bars -- the belief that he wasn't giving up a life, just postponing it a bit. For 30 years, he's told himself a story about the man he will be, about the family he will have, once he reaches his destination. But now his kids are grown, 32 and 28, with lives of their own and no time for a compound. They're busy."
"When his son, James, went to boarding school, Pat flew up early to make sure the young man's room was arranged perfectly, likely in search of a grand gesture to ease his guilt for all he'd missed."
"He pauses, considering how many times he's climbed a mountain only to get knocked down and start climbing again...He's trying, still deeply invested in the positive parts of building and running a team but saying he's free at last from the negative motivations he's never been able to control..."I don't have to get pulled back into this one more time," he says.

"He almost got away. That's the thing. Four years ago, he missed his chance. Now, of course, he sees the lost moment so clearly... "I thought this is what life should be," he says. "Friends, family and fun. A lot of thought about enough is enough. A time to leave with all debts paid to the game and nothing to suck me back in."

"...and for just a little while, it seemed as if he might get out.

"He stayed.

"He [LeBron James] went home because he had to go home," he says. "It was time. It was really time for him to go home..."

 "I've let go of all the stuff that used to hold me to the grind."

"Am I different?" Pat asks.

"I can't say the craziness isn't still there," she says.

"I wanna win, honey," he says. "We both wanna win."
"She hears what he says about not owing anyone anything anymore.

"He's talking about it," she says. "Do I trust it?"
"...she understands his personal code, perhaps even better than he does: The better the Heat play, the louder the siren song of more becomes.
"I NEED ONE MORE," he writes in a text message..."

*Updated. That is a little painful to read, no?  "I NEED ONE MORE." Wow. "Everything is never quite enough."

It's all about Riley. I need one more. Not the team, not the "Heat" organization, not for Mickey Arison, for Pat Riley. It is ruthlessly self-centered. Years ago, during the Alonzo Mourning era in Miami there was no more intense rivalry than "Heat"-"Knicks," the latter Riley's team immediately before the "Heat." There were fights in some of those games. In one of them, it may have been the embarrassing Mourning-Larry Johnson bitch slap "fight". Zo was ejected. There was no fiercer competitor in the NBA than Alonzo Mourning. He walked dejectedly toward the locker room, past the "Heat" bench, past, right in front of, Pat Riley. What do you think Riley said to Mourning? I was shocked: "Thanks, you cost me a title." It was cruel, cruelly self-centered. I have never forgotten that. That provides real insight into Pat Riley.

#Updated again:

As I was reading this marvelous, insightful article I was thinking, "Who does Riley remind me of? I kept thinking Saliera, Mozart's unknown enemy in Amadeus but the more I thought of the details of that character, no, that was not Riley. I thought of a client, a wonderful man, soulful, handsome and skilled, with one fatal flaw: cocaine. I got so close to this client, believed in him so much that I went to his second wedding.  I had gotten him off two cases that each could have sentenced him to double digit years in prison. It was miraculous, and I'm no miracle worker; things happened in those cases that really had me half-believing in divine intervention. After those, I was convinced as my client told me that he would never throw away this marriage, in middle age, for crack, as he had his first. His son from his first marriage moved to Chicago and wanted nothing more to do with his dad. He wouldn't do that again.

One day I was in court on another client's case. It was early, the judge had not taken the bench. It was a big courtroom and there were just a handful of people there. I got some paperwork from the clerk and sat at one of the tables filling it out. Something made me look up and to my right into the audience. There were only three people in that section and they were all sitting together. I looked at the tall, gaunt, toothless man in the middle, a truly pathetic sight. Didn't know him. I looked to his right and the elderly man with the sad eyes and faint smile was familiar to me but I didn't immediately place the face. I looked to the woman sitting next to the pathetic man in the middle. Her eyes were big and red from tragedy, her face tragic. She waved faintly and I immediately recognized her as my crack client's sister. Then back to the man in the middle. It was my old client. With his father on his right. I jumped up and rushed over to them and hugged them and began to cry on their shoulders as they did on mind. The prosecutors in the courtroom were staring at this mute scene gape-jawed. I took my client outside the courtroom and we cried a bit more and I learned that he had gone on another crack binge--"I thought I was over it and could do just one more," he had lied to himself.--and had burglarized three restaurants after hours for loose change. He had thrown it all away again.

Pat Riley is addicted. He feels guilt over being an absentee father to his son because of his addiction. But he won't do that again, he lies, "I've let go of all that stuff."  Chris, his wife, knows: "I can't say the craziness isn't still there."

The article ends with Pat Riley telling his interviewer, "You know the greatest lie in the world? Pat's retiring to Malibu." Retiring to his and his wife's "heart house." That is the greatest lie in the world.