Kentucky Greats: #18, Pat Riley
Posted by ibleedblue040 on March 13, 2008
Pat Riley was and still is one of the most recognizable and remembered Wildcats of all-time. One reason is he is now considered one of the greatest NBA coaches of all-time winning multiple NBA Championships in his terrific coaching career. Another reason is he was one of the best players at UK in the school’s history. He was a member of the infamous Kentucky Wildcats team that took on Texas Western (Now known as UTEP), which resulted in the movie Glory Road, which is still considered one of the better and more successful teams in UK history. Riley ranks near the top in nearly every major statistical category as well. He ranks in the top 25 in: career points, career rebounds, free throws, field goals & field goals attempted. Riley also was 55-25 in his career at UK, including that 27-2 season in which Kentucky played Texas Western as the #1 team in the nation. Riley was in the top 2 in scoring average on the team in each of the three seasons in which he played, not even 10 players in school history who played at least three seasons can say that. To be honest Riley’s coaching success in the NBA does help him out a little bit on this list because fame and how well-known the player is does factor in a little bit. Had Riley had a better career record than 55-25 he might have made the top 10 or top 15. Pat Riley is the only successful coach on this list as well so that helps him out a little bit as well. Some of Riley’s career achievements at UK and in the NBA as a coach include:
As a junior Pat Riley made the First Team All-SEC, All-NCAA Tournament Team, NCAA Regional Player of the Year, SEC Player of the Year & AP Third Team All-American
The following year as a senior Riley made First Team All-SEC, one of the only players in Kentucky Basketball history to make two or more First Team All-SEC teams
Riley ranks 17th on the all-time scoring list with 1,464 career points
He also ranks 24th all-time at UK with 672 career rebounds
Riley attempted 284 free throws in his career, good for 24th in UK history
He made 590 career field goals which is 15th in Kentucky Wildcats history
Riley was voted as one of the ten best coaches in NBA history in ’96-’97
Riley’s resume is filled with many milestones during an NBA career that spans 38 years as a player, assistant coach, head coach, administrator and broadcaster and has produced seven NBA championships. He has compiled a 1,151-589 (.661) all-time record guiding the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and the Miami HEAT during a 22-year head coaching career that is one of the most impressive in all of sports. His 1,151 regular season victories trail only Lenny Wilkens and Don Nelson on the NBA’s all-time list. His 171 postseason victories rank second in NBA history, just seven behind Phil Jackson. His 278 postseason games coached rank first all-time in the league. His five NBA championships as a head coach tie him with John Kundla for the third highest total in NBA history. Riley has averaged over 52 wins per season in his coaching career. His .661 winning percentage in regular season play and 1,740 games coached both rank sixth all-time in the NBA and his .615 postseason winning percentage ranks ninth all-time in the league annuals. In 1996-97 as the NBA celebrated its 50th Anniversary, Riley received one of the highest honors bestowed upon an NBA coach when he was named one of the Top 10 Coaches of All-Time by a panel of media who regularly cover the league. Simply put, Riley is a winner.
Another reason Riley is placed so high on this list is because he has had his jersey retired at UK. He is one of only 36 players in UK history to have their jersey retired, so obviously that is a great honor . Only 14 players in the last 40 years have had their jerseys retired which shows even more how beloved and how great Riley was at Kentucky.