The Scorpion Is King

Pat Riley
Pat Riley is again the coach of the Miami Heat, replacing Stan Van Gundy following his resignation Monday for family reasons. (Wilfredo Lee - AP)
By Mike Wise
Tuesday, December 13, 2005

One of Pat Riley's favorite pregame parables concerns the scorpion who needs to get across the creek and the frog whom he asks for a ride.

"I can't trust you," the frog says.

"Sure you can," the scorpion says, hopping on the frog's back.

Midway across, the scorpion stings the frog.

"Why would you do that?" the frog asks, sinking toward the bottom. "Now we're both gonna die."

Scorpion: "I can't help it. I'm a scorpion. It's my nature."

The scorpion is back on the Miami Heat bench today, feeding his own ego as much as he's chasing a championship and Phil Jackson.

Pat Riley cannot help himself. It's his nature.

It's premature to suggest he took Stan Van Gundy down with him. Van Gundy went out of his way to clear Riley of any conniving and conspiracy yesterday. He resigned as the Heat's head coach after just two seasons and 21 games, 18 of which were played without an injured Shaquille O'Neal.

Riley even got weepy, welling up as Van Gundy gave his primary reason for stepping down: family. Van Gundy checked the Heat's schedule and realized he would be home with his children just 49 out of the season's 170 days. That was too much to give up for coaching one of the most theatrical and talented teams in pro basketball.

"He said family, he meant family," Bill Van Gundy said in a phone interview. The coaching lifer and the father of Stan and Jeff, the Houston Rockets' coach added, "I'll just say one thing about this: My sons have had a good history of making good decisions for themselves."

Jeff Van Gundy got out of New York three years ago almost to the day. He got out as the poorly run Knicks were about to plummet into the abyss. Jeff got them before they got him. Stan Van Gundy orchestrated his own exit, too, before his boss upstairs made his job untenable. Because, as sincere and moving as the entire news conference was yesterday in South Beach, that day was eventually coming.

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