Pat Riley can call Alonzo Mourning a colleague now, sharing the Miami Heat front office with the now Hall Of Famer. But in an interview during NBA TV’s red carpet event for the Basketball Hall Of Fame ceremony, Pat Riley said he considered Zo a colleague even when he was coaching him.
“What I loved about Alonzo more than anything else, he was an all-time ally of mine, of coaches who wanted to get the most out of their players,” Riley says. “It was a privilege for me to coach him. I’m just so proud that tonight he’s going to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame. He’s earned it as much as anybody. He has earned it.”
Riley, known as one of the toughest coaches in the NBA when he was on the sidelines, used to drill his players during practice. According to Riley, Mourning always bought in.
“If you don’t have your best guy, your best player with you with what you’re doing as a coach, then it probably is not going to work,” Riley says. “There were days when I thought ‘maybe I put these guys through a little too much’ at practice he’d say ‘what are you doing? What are you doing? You getting soft on me?'”
“You use the word competitiveness and fierceness, there’s not a better player in the history of the game.”
The 2006 NBA Championship topped off Mourning’s career. He was one of the all-time greatest centers before he had to leave the game with his kidney disease, but upon his return he took a role on Miami’s bench playing behind Shaquille O’Neal.
“Zo excepted a backup role. He played 16 minutes in [Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals] and had five blocks, nine points and he changed six or seven other shots but he really was the guy that brought us back from a 14 point deficit,” Riley says. “When we brought him off the bench, the game changed defensively.”
“It was an incredible moment for us all to win the championship and to be able to look at him that night, in that locker room,” Riley says. “We have a picture splayed out in our championship alley with him and champagne and the face and the smile. As fierce as he looked–because he has this glare out on the court that makes everybody shrivel up–he has the smile that lights up the room, too.”
Alonzo Mourning is the first player to be inducted in the Hall Of Fame as a player who primarily played for the Heat. Still with the Heat front office, Zo is a #HeatLifer in every sense.