Riley is the Master of Preparation

When you speak at a coaching clinic, or attend a coaching clinic, there is always someone who sits in the first row, front and center, looking as if every word that is uttered is going to be the most important thing ever said about basketball. This someone is usually a person who is relatively new to coaching. He wants to make sure that no one is going to distract him from picking up any coaching gem that is offered by the clinician during that particular session.

In the early '80s Bob Knight was giving a clinic at Cal-Irvine. I was an assistant at the University of Oregon and was in attendance to hear Knight. At the time he was regarded as one of the top clinicians in basketball. In the front-and-center seat taking in every word was Pat Riley, who had just become an assistant coach to Los Angeles Lakers head coach Paul Westhead. His appearance at the clinic was a little surprising, because you generally did not see pro guys at clinics. If you did see an NBA coach at a clinic he was generally the person teaching, not sitting in the audience learning. Riley had recently come down from the broadcasting booth to join Westhead on the bench.