MIAMI (AP) – Attempting to quell a flood of speculation about Stan Van Gundy’s future with the Miami Heat, team president Pat Riley insisted Saturday that no coaching change is imminent – while again saying he hasn’t completely ruled out a return to the sidelines in the future.

“I would quit my job before I would dismiss Stan Van Gundy as the head coach simply because I wanted to coach,” Riley said in a call with the team’s beat writers. “Period. That’s not me. Anybody who knows me know that I wouldn’t do that for the sake of me wanting to get back into the job.”

Still, when asked if Van Gundy was guaranteed of being the team’s opening-night coach for this coming season, Riley did not offer a direct answer. “See, that’s a loaded question,” Riley said.

Van Gundy, who is 101-63 in two regular seasons since taking over when Riley resigned unexpectedly days before the 2003-04 season, was not available for comment Saturday.

Riley has been at the center of what he calls “a firestorm” for weeks, after telling reporters shortly after this past season that he wants to “take a little bit more of an active participation” with the franchise.

He attempted to clarify that remark Saturday, saying he owes it to Heat owner Micky Arison to be “more vigilant” in his role overseeing the franchise. Yet he also indicated that expectations will be high for Van Gundy, who last summer received a contract extension believed to be worth $2.5 million annually.

“I would dismiss my brother or anybody in the organization if I felt things weren’t going right,” Riley said. “That’s my job as the president.”

Several outlets, either without naming or citing sources, said in recent days that Riley’s return was 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.”

Riley vehemently denied that, calling it “absolutely unconscionable. … There’s no truth to that at all. And if there’s a high-ranking, gutless official in the Heat organization that gave him that piece of information, it is an absolute lie.”

Heat guard Dwyane Wade said the whirlwind surrounding the coaching situation hasn’t weighed heavily on the minds of players during the offseason.

“The summer is about rumors,” said Wade, who was attending a charity game in Miami on Saturday night, hosted by teammate Alonzo Mourning. “We understand that Stan Van Gundy’s been our coach, and he’s still our coach, and Pat Riley is the president.”

Added Mourning: “I wasn’t really worried about that at all. Either would have worked for us.”

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.

“I’ll never say never to ever wanting to coach again,” Riley said.

AP-ES-07-16-05 1915EDT


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