INGLEWOOD, CALIF., JUNE 13 -- The annals of nearby Hollywood are filled with tales of actors pulling out all the stops in their quest for an Academy Award. Joan Crawford employed a public relations firm that successfully delivered her an Oscar in 1945 for the film "Mildred Pierce." Even the Duke, John Wayne, allegedly browbeat the motion picture academy into seven nominations for "The Alamo," by most accounts a perfectly dreadful film.

It is something of a surprise then to find Los Angeles Lakers Coach Pat Riley, in the midst of much celluloid status, almost begging not to be honored with an award of his own, say, NBA coach of the year.

"I don't want to belittle the award -- it does mean something -- but I think I became a good coach when I stopped worrying about things like recognition. I'm glad I don't have that problem anymore," he said today in his office at the Forum, one day before his team would face the Boston Celtics in an attempt to win the league's grandest prize -- the championship trophy. "Maybe one day, about 20 years from now, someone will look back and decide to give me one of those lifetime achievement awards."

At the rate he's going, there's a chance such an award would be named after Riley. In almost six full seasons, the Lakers have won 351 games and lost 130, ending each year atop the Pacific Division. Those victories helped Riley become the coach to reach 300 victories quickest.

Riley also has the highest winning percentage in NBA history, both in the regular season and playoffs. His 71 postseason victories rank below only Boston's Red Auerbach and, should Los Angeles take the 1986-87 title, he would join Auerbach and John Kundla as the only coaches to win three or more NBA championships.

And yet, when the envelopes were opened after each NBA season, someone else's name has been on the card -- Gene Shue, Don Nelson, Frank Layden, Nelson again, Mike Fratello. This season, the winner -- by a handy margin -- was Mike Schuler, whose Portland team finished second in the Pacific, trailing the Lakers by 16 games.

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of Riley's most vocal supportors is Celtics Coach K.C. Jones, whose understated manner might have cost him the same honors that have passed Riley by.

"The basis for not getting credit is the way coaches are graded; if a team that has no talent finishes close to .500 it must be because their guy is doing a helluva job," Jones said. "Let's not even get started talking about the attitudes regarding {college-bred} coaches and ex-player coaches.

"It's weird; people make their lists of the top four or five coaches in the league and Pat's not on it and K.C. Jones isn't on it, but if these other guys are so good, how come they're not in the finals?"

Either Riley or Jones has coached in the finals since 1981-82, but the Celtics won the title the season before that without Jones (he was an assistant under Bill Fitch) and the Lakers took the crown the season before that without Riley. Therein lies the main reason both men are often overlooked: critics argue that the teams' talent has been so overwhelming that your next-door neighbor could come up with 50 wins a season.

"He's in a situation where they say we have a lot of talent; we're not supposed to lose; anybody could coach them," said guard Magic Johnson. "But he's opened it up; when he decided to open up the offense to anybody, I think that was one of his best moves . . . The last two years he's really started being great with the Xs and Os and at making adjustments."

The latter area is perhaps Riley's greatest strength.

"When I came in, I'd never coached anywhere before, so what I started doing was teaching a philosophy that I didn't know I'd even had," Riley said. "There were never any ABCs, but over the years there's definitely been a definitive series of things I believe in.

"I'm a tremendous believer in peer pressure. I look at our team as a big circle with 12 parts and I'm on the perimeter just trying to make sure it stays enclosed. It's okay for a player to have space and to get out on a limb at times, but he has to be aware of the others and that they will pull him back in.

"I used to have these little 'Do not disturb' signs on strings. I know there are times when every player is gone for the day; maybe he had a bad game the night before, maybe he's having problems at home, that's fine. You can have that day, even a day and a half. I'd put the sign around the player's neck and tell him to go off in a corner; no one would say a word to him that day if that was what he wanted. But after that, he had better be right back into it."

Riley's bad days have become fewer and farther between in recent years, partially the result of his becoming a father two years ago. The birth of son James almost perfectly coincided with the last of what he calls his "three biggest nightmares."

The first came as a senior in high school, when Riley's previously undefeated football team lost to its arch rival in the final seconds on a long pass thrown over his head. The second came in 1966, when the University of Texas-El Paso, then Texas Western, beat Riley and the heavily favored Kentucky basketball team in the NCAA final.

The third came in 1984, when the Lakers lost the NBA championship to Jones and the Celtics in an often-brutal, often-sweltering seven-game series.

"As for any future nightmares, I'm not planning on them," said Riley. "I'm still looking at a dream, and it can come true tomorrow or it can come true on Tuesday, but I believe it's going to come true."