Upbeat Riley confident he can bring Knicks back New coach gets five-year contract

June 01, 1991|By Clifton Brown | Clifton Brown,New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Lured by the challenge and unable to resist the opportunity, Pat Riley has returned to coaching, confident he can return the New York Knicks to glory.

Ending weeks of speculation and negotiations, Riley, 46, was introduced as the Knicks' head coach at a news conference at Madison Square Garden yesterday.

Having coached the Los Angeles Lakers to four NBA championships during the 1980s, Riley has credentials and box-office charisma unmatched by anyone else the Knicks could have hired. Those qualities cost the Knicks millions, making Riley the highest-paid coach in league history.

The Knicks declined to disclose details of the contract but two people close to the negotiations, who insisted on anonymity, said Riley had signed a five-year contract worth $1.2 million per year, plus incentives that could increase his yearly income to $1.5 million.

By investing that kind of money in Riley, Paramount Communications -- which owns the Knicks -- along with the team's president, Dave Checketts, and its vice president of player personnel, Ernie Grunfeld, obviously believe that Riley will help the Knicks regain status as an elite franchise.

With a 533-194 record in nine seasons with the Lakers, Riley has the highest winning percentage (.733) of any NBA coach. He will be taking over a team mired in mediocrity last season, finishing at 39-43 before being swept out of the playoffs by the Chicago Bulls.

"I'm not concerned about the pressure," said Riley, who left a $400,000-a-year job as an NBC analyst to become the Knicks' sixth coach in six years. "That's part of the job. I don't want it to be easy. It won't be easy. But I don't like losing. I don't accept losing. And I don't want to be a part of losing."

The tradition of the Knicks and the prestige of coaching them are important to Riley. He said he would not have left NBC for any other job. Asked whether he would have called the Knicks if the Knicks had not called him, Riley said, "Yes, I probably would have."

Checketts said he had sensed Riley's willingness to return three weeks ago, when he first contacted Riley to determine his interest in replacing John MacLeod, who had left after the season to coach at Notre Dame.

Riley has not named his staff, but it is believed Lakers assistant Randy Pfund will join the Knicks after the playoffs. Paul Silas, a current Knicks assistant, has the inside track for the other position.

Riley avoided questions concerning what personnel changes the Knicks need to make.

Pat Riley's record

REGULAR SEASON Year, Team . .. .. .. ..W-L.. ..Pct.. ..Fin

1981-82 LA Lakers.. ..50-21.. .704.. .. 1

1982-83 LA Lakers.. ..58-24.. .707.. .. 1

1983-84 LA Lakers.. ..54-28.. .659.. .. 1

1984-85 LA Lakers.. ..62-20.. .756.. .. 1

1985-86 LA Lakers.. ..62-20.. .756.. .. 1

1986-87 LA Lakers.. ..65-17.. .793.. .. 1

1987-88 LA Lakers.. ..62-20.. .756.. .. 1

1988-89 LA Lakers.. ..57-25.. .695.. .. 1

1989-90 LA Lakers-y.. 63-19.. .768.. .. 1

Totals.. .. .. .. .. 533-194. .733

POSTSEASON Year, Team.. .. .. .. ..W-L.. ..Pct.

1981-82 LA Lakers-z.. 12-2.. ..857

1982-83 LA Lakers.. ...8-7.. ..533

1983-84 LA Lakers.. .. 14-7....667

1984-85 LA Lakers-z.. 15-4.. ..789

1985-86 LA Lakers.. .. .8-6.. .571

1986-87 LA Lakers-z.. .15-3.. .833

1987-88 LA Lakers-z.. .15-9.. .625

1988-89 LA Lakers.. .. 11-4.. .733

1989-90 LA Lakers.. .. .4-5.. .444

Totals.. .. .. .. .. .102-47. .685

y-NBA Coach of the Year

z-won NBA championship

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