In the NBA, just as important as having the right players on your team, is having the right coach to lead those players. When the Lakers were one of the marquee teams of the NBA in the 1980s, they had that perfect leader in Pat Riley.
Riley went from the broadcasting booth to the coaching circle during the 1980 season, eventually becoming the team’s interim coach in 1981 and eventually shedding that label. Riley led the team to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances in his first four years on the job, winning two championships in 1982 and 1985.
Riley would add two more championships in 1987 and 1988, cementing himself as one of the top coaches in the NBA. On January 24, 1990, Riley would add to his legacy as he became the fastest coach to win 500 games in NBA history after the Lakers defeated the Indiana Pacers 120-111.
With only 184 losses to go with his 500 wins, Riley shattered the previous record, held by former Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks Head Coach Don Nelson, who took 817 games to reach the milestone.
Riley is regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time, in large part due to his amazing success with the Los Angeles Lakers. Having a core of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy will help in any coach succeed, but Riley knew which buttons to press to keep this team motivated — like his decision to guarantee a repeat championship in 1988.
Even though he would eventually leave the Lakers, Riley still goes down as one of the greatest Laker coaches ever. Winning 500 games in your career is an accomplishment to be proud of, but doing it faster than anyone else puts you in a different echelon of greatness. And that is where Pat Riley remains.
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