ESPN- Riley flew home worried and got a text telling him to be ready for a call. About 15 minutes later, his phone rang and Paul was on the other end. The agent handed the phone to LeBron, who started by saying, "I want to thank you for four years ..."
"I was silent," Riley says. "I didn't say anything. My mind began to just go. And it was over. I was very angry when LeBron left. It was personal for me. It just was. I had a very good friend who talked me off the ledge and kept me from going out there and saying something like Dan Gilbert. I'm glad I didn't do it."
Can you imagine if Pat Riley, of all people, turned into a spiteful teenager in response to losing a superstar player? Like, it's one thing for the owner of a small market franchise that stands next to no chance of success without a player like LeBron James on board to write an impassioned letter to his fanbase that is chalked to the gills with falsehoods and irrational expectations. Whether or not you believe that Dan Gilbert was right to air out a player for exercising his right to free agency, it was undoubtedly a business savvy move to throw a former employee under the bus in order to inspire fans of a then hopeless team.
But Pat Riley? The President of a team whose location always makes them an attractive suitor? The guy who has won eight championships as a player, coach, and executive? The evil genius that was somehow lucky enough to benefit from the collaborative efforts of three NBA superstars? If he had gone off the rails and started shamelessly bitching about losing LeBron in the exact same fashion in which he got LeBron to the organization from which LeBron originally came? Man, not only would that be a testament to LeBron's importance, but it would come off as insufferable, condescending nonsense. We probably shouldn't have felt bad for the billionaire that owns the Cleveland Cavaliers when it looked like his investment was set to lose a shit ton of money, but - in terms of being sympathetic - Dan Gilbert in 2010 was basically a homeless war veteran compared to Pat Riley at any point in his professional career.