It has been quite a nostalgic October for Pat Riley. The Heat president began his 50th season in the NBA, attended his son’s wedding, and on Thursday night was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions.
“The people that have been running the Chamber all these years, they’ve been trying to get me to come, but I was so compulsively obsessed with basketball games, I never really wanted to do many things, but we are beneficiaries of what the Chamber does, and it’s an honor,” Riley said before the event at Marlins Park.
Riley was one of four honorees. The others were University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris, drag racer Darrell Gwynn, and former North Miami High star and University of Florida football player Carlos “the Cuban Comet” Alvarez. ESPN personality and longtime Herald columnist Dan LeBatard received a Lifetime Contribution to Sports award.
Riley chatted with Morris about the World Series, and with Gwynn about hot rod cars. Riley owns 16 hot rods — 13 in Miami, three in California. “I like muscle cars. My favorite was the ‘51 black Mercury [that] Jimmy Dean drove in “Rebel Without a Cause,” Riley said. “That was my dream car my whole life. And I ended up getting one from ZZ Top, Billy Gibbons. I drive them around town, you can hear me coming. People ask me, ‘What time will you be here?’, and I say, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll hear me coming.’ ”
He also answered a few questions about the start of the Heat season. “It’s too early to assess,” he said. “Let’s get Hassan back. That’s sort of a bummer.”
As for his young players, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo: “They’re 21 and 19. I think you could see (in Wednesday night’s loss to the Spurs) with veteran 37-year-old, 35-year-old, 40-year-old players that are very smart and a great championship team, championship coach, they’ve got a lot to learn...but I’m happy with (them). Five years from now, I hope they’re on the All-Star team.”
The Hall of Champions honors individuals who, through their athletic achievements and contribution to sports, have brought recognition to South Florida.
Riley, 72, is an NBA Hall of Famer and won five NBA titles as a head coach, four with the Lakers and one with the Heat. He also won two NBA rings as Heat President
Gwynn has 28 NHRA National Event wins and was the 1983 NHRA World Champion Top Alcohol Dragster. He is in the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Morris is in his 25th season as Hurricanes baseball coach and has 1,566 Division I victories over his 36-year career. He is a two-time national champion and two-time National Coach of the Year. His teams reached the NCAA Regionals 36 seasons in a row.
“I’m very honored to be in this company,” Morris said. “To look at the book and see all the people in this, it’s like, `Oh my goodness.’ It’s really a special night.”
Alvarez is a College Football Hall of Fame Inductee. 172 receptions, 2,563 receiving yard with the UF. Became the youngest player to make the AFCA All-America team.