The 2006 Miami Heat were a collection of legends.
Coached at the beginning by Stan Van Gundy, the Heat began that season with an 11-10 record. Van Gundy resigned and Pat Riley took over.
According to reports: Van Gundy began wrestling with the balance between job and family during the preseason and told Pat Riley after the regular-season opener that they needed to talk about the future.
“If I’m getting forced out, I would have gotten absolutely every dollar on my contract and walked out the door,” Van Gundy said in 2006 after stepping down.
“That’s not what happened here. … Anybody who’s speculating otherwise has to do so in total disregard of the facts of the situation.”
So why did he really leave? “Stan got along,” Antoine Walker told me on the Heavy Live With Scoop B Show.
“I mean, he does it differently. Stan’s a screamer and a yeller. With the type of team that we got, that doesn’t necessarily work all the time. And it’s not saying that it’s the player’s way but, I think what it was is that Pat was very involved at the time. He’s very involved with his coaches from what I’ve seen leaving notes and he’s at every practice and every trip…he’s involved. And for some coaches, that could be difficult to do – to have your boss on your back or on your heels all the time and I think that was something that Stan was tired of. It probably was a crash course. Pat was a little… anxious because I think we were like, 10-10, but Shaq had missed the first ten games of the season so we were only like 10-10 so, I think might have played a big part too and Pat wanted to win right away but, it was good to have Pat come down. We couldn’t have won it and not to take away anything from Stan, but that was a Pat Riley type team. Pat Riley needed to the coach. That was a good move by Pat coming down.”
Antoine Walker was the Boston Celtics’ sixth overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft out of the University of Kentucky, Walker was a three-time All-Star and a member of the NBA’s All-Rookie team in 1997. After bouncing around between the Celtics, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks, he won a ring with that 2006 team and he still marvels at it. “It was unbelievable for me,” he said.
“Because I had never played for – well, when I was in Boston, it was all about let’s get back to the playoffs, let’s become a consistent playoff team. The championship was always kind of a long shot in the mindset, well at least my mindset. I was like, “Man I just want to go to the playoffs and see how we can do in the playoffs and be on the big stage.” And then suddenly as a free agent you sign with Shaq and D-Wade and that’s their only goal. The only goal is a title. It’s a different preparation, it’s a different mindset and not only that, I’m playing with Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, James Posey, Jason Williams, Udonis Haslem… you know, I’m playing with all guys that are in the prime of their career or at the end of their career and all they care about is the championship. So, my mindset had to change and I was just proud of myself that I was able to lock in to that type of team and being able to be a big part of what we were able to accomplish so, it was everything to me and I would always tell people it was the funnest year that I have ever played as a pro. We had this thing called ‘15 Strong’. When we would all had to do it together. But this is the only team when we go out on the road, it would 7-8 guys out to dinner together. We always had each other’s back. We didn’t have a great season, it was average. We won 52 games but the whole goal for the season was to win the title. We knew that we were built to win a title. No matter what that anyone said, through all the ups and downs – you got to remember, we went through a coaching change. We had Stan Van Gundy as a coach and then Pat [Riley] came down…no matter whatever we went through, the goal was to win a title. And that’s what made it really special. I will never forget that.”