MIAMI (AP) – Reports that Miami Heat president Pat Riley is contemplating a return to coaching continued Friday, nearly a month after he announced plans to “take a little bit more of an active participation” during the coming season.

Team officials declined to comment Friday on the reports, and coach Stan Van Gundy – Riley’s longtime top assistant who was promoted before the start of the 2003-04 season – told The Miami Herald he has not “heard anything.” Riley was unavailable for comment Friday, and attempts by The AP to reach Van Gundy were not immediately successful. Riley resigned a few days before the start of the 2003-04 season, turning the team over to Van Gundy – who’s gone 101-63 during the regular season, took the Heat to the Eastern Conference semifinals in his first season and guided Miami to the conference finals this past season.

During a conference call with reporters on June 17, Riley lauded the job Van Gundy has done as coach.

The team gave Van Gundy a contract extension a year ago believed to be worth $2.5 million annually.

“Over the last couple of years, Stan has done a great job and I’ve stayed way into the background,” Riley said during that call. “I may take a little bit more of an active participation in some of the things, but for the most part I’m content at doing what I’m doing.”

Since then, Riley has said he was “embarrassed” over the “firestorm” that stemmed from that remark, and has denied that he has any immediate plans to remove Van Gundy from the sidelines.

Yet several outlets, either without naming or citing sources, have insisted in recent days that Riley’s return is indeed possible.

Jack Ramsay, a former NBA coach and Heat broadcaster, said on ESPN Thursday that “Riley has indicated to Stan Van Gundy … that he intends to return as coach of the Heat,” and the Herald said a high-ranking team official believes a realistic chance of a change exists.

Riley has never denied that he misses coaching, even acknowledging that it was difficult to sit in the stands when the Heat made their playoff run this past season.

In 21 seasons as an NBA coach, Riley won 1,110 regular-season games, 155 playoff games and led the Los Angeles Lakers of the “Showtime” era to NBA championships in 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988. He also coached the New York Knicks (1991-95) and the Heat (1995-2003).

Last summer, Riley met with the Lakers about the coaching vacancy they had at the time. A few weeks after that meeting, Riley completed a deal that sent three players and a draft pick to the Lakers in exchange for Shaquille O’Neal.

AP-ES-07-15-05 1758EDT

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