Riley's Runts


The history of Pat Riley is intriguing.  Dating all the way back to his days at Kentucky under Adoph Rupp.  Some of you might remember the movie Glory Road from a few years ago.  If you do then the 1966 Texas Western team stands out in your mind.  Rightfully so, it was an amazing feat but that Kentucky team came out of nowhere as well.  With no players taller than six-foot-five they’ll forever be known as Rupp’s Runts.

I know that’s not the case here with height but I’m drawing the comparison through our lack of a dominant big man.  Sure Chris Bosh is big and LeBron James as well but neither are the kind of big that the haters out there are claiming will be our downfall.

I came across a very interesting documentary on Adolph Rupp.  His likeness in Glory Road left me with a very racist taste in my mouth and I’m glad I took the time to look into this doc.  I’ll wrap up mynow corrected and ill-informed opinion with a quote from Pat Riley on the topic.

People who didn’t know him went through the myth and the legend and all the rumors more than anything else, and did not go directly to people who knew Adolph.

Youth are impressionable and the life long lessons that Rupp presented to Riley are likely still influencing him to this day.  Reading about the 1966 Kentucky Wildcats and Rupp’s Runts lead me to imagine some connections Riley is making to this current Heat squad.  Distant ones obviously but when talking about this team from 1966 you can hear the passion even through print.  More from Riley on the Runts.

We just took off. We were a team that started the season, nobody had any hopes for, and we just took off. We won our first 10, 11, 12 games by big margins and then, boom, it became a fantasy year

Obviously this Heat team is not coming out of nowhere now but it did the night LeBron made his decision.  I can see this team getting out to a quick start as well.

Riley on Rupp building one of the most successful dynasties in the history of basketball.

I think the reason why he was so successful is because he was probably, at that time, the hardest working coach in college basketball. He worked very hard to learn from the master, in Phog Allen.

Pat Riley is currently putting the cherry on top of his monumental career.  Sure the title a few years back was nice but it was nothing compared to his days with the Lakers.  Dynasties are in his blood.

This comment really puts in perspective what kind of responsibility Riley feels by being connected to such a legend.

The University of Kentucky, today, is a monument, from a basketball standpoint because of one person, and one person only. And that was the 41 years that Adolph Rupp taught the game of basketball at Kentucky. Taught the fans of Kentucky what great basketball was all about. And also taught, I think, you know, a generation of players who became great coaches how to teach the game that have monuments in the Hall of Fame right now.

There’s a reason LeBron James stayed away from other teams and it’s because he’s done waiting.  Pat Riley is done waiting to match his success with the Lakers as well as Rupp’s Wildcat reputation and legend.  Dwayne Wade is done waiting for another taste of what he sampled in 06.  Chris Bosh is done waiting for a team that help him match the success of his early youth.

They came here knowing that Riley has lived what they desire.  He’s gone through the growing pains.  The mistakes have already been learned from and that’s evidenced by the lack of aging stars filling up the roster.  This is being done the right way and I can’t help but think that the influence of Rupp’s Runts on Pat Riley has something to do with the vision Riley has for this team.

Not having a dominant big man is how Pat Riley learned and played this game from one of the most influential coaches to ever live.  Everyone looks at Riley as a guy that needs that big man whether it was Jabbar, Ewing, Mourning or Shaq.  That was just a case of Riley maximizing the talent he has.

The more I dig into that 1966 team the more I can see the comparisons.  I expect this team to play very similarly to that team from 1966 and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Heat got off to just as hot of a start as they did.  The only difference should be that last game of the year since not even West Texas would be able to contain this group.

Tags: Adolph Rupp Kentucky Wildcats Miami Heat Pat Riley

  • hotnuke

    Nice piece, Ryan. While I’d never thought to compare our new South Beach Superteam to “Rupp’s Runts”, you’ve given me a whole new way of looking at them.

    I believe this team won’t just get out to a “hot” start like those Wildcats, but could very easily, depending on who’s on their schedule early, set a new record for the most wins without a loss to begin the season.

    25-0 seems eminently possible to me.

    Keep up the great work, bro…;-)

    • ryansproviero

      thanks man, I believe some key parts of the schedule are going to be released on Tuesday so I guess we’ll find out if we’re playing the Lakers or Celtics on opening night or Christmas day, lol.

  • bennyvargas

    Good read Ryan…