MIAMI (AP) — The summer of change for the Miami Heat might be even bigger than anyone imagined.
Heat president Pat Riley wouldn't close the door Monday on resuming his Hall of Fame coaching career, even after insisting when he retired two years ago that he was "definitely sure that I don't want to do this anymore."
It seems, at minimum, that's no longer a definite.
And the Heat offseason just got a bit more intriguing.
"I'll do whatever is in the best interest of building the team here. Period," Riley said at his end-of-season availability. "Whatever it takes, OK? I'll let you fill in the blanks. ... If some free agent were to say 'I will come here but you must do this,' well, hell, if that happens that day, then I might have to give it some thought."
Riley hand-picked longtime assistant Erik Spoelstra to take over two years ago, and Spoelstra has not only won 90 regular-season games since getting the job, but led the Heat to the playoffs twice. Miami exited in the first round both times as the No. 5 seed, but Riley said Monday that he thought Spoelstra "had a great year."
Plus, the priorities for the Heat offseason haven't changed, and by now, are well-documented: Persuade former NBA finals MVP and scoring champion Dwyane Wade to stay, land some marquee free agents and not only instantly transform Miami into a championship contender again, but lay the foundation for what Riley hopes can become his next dynasty after the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers.
The mere thought, however, of even the tiniest potential of a Riley return could just create that much more buzz.
Riley didn't come out and say he was thinking of returning as coach. When pressed, he simply wouldn't reaffirm what he said in the same room two years ago, that his days on the sideline were finished.
Riley recently extended his deal with Heat president Micky Arison to remain as president. Riley wouldn't reveal any details.
"I'm not thinking of anything but building this team," the 65-year-old Riley said. "If I were to leave the team and go somewhere else in a year or two from now, if I got tired of reading books on the beach, excuse me, the Kindle, I might want to coach again. I don't know. But don't say that I won't ever do that or that I can't do it. If I say yes or no, then you get condemned for it."
It would seem that Riley has far more pressing matters, like making final preparations for July 1 and the start of this summer's NBA free-agent bonanza, something the Heat have been getting ready to tackle for several years.
Miami will have a huge block of salary-cap room this summer, enough to offer LeBron James, Chris Bosh or any other free agent who comes along a small fortune to play alongside Wade in South Florida. Riley has been touting this summer for months, if not longer, even telling prospective ticket-buyers that he wants to see a Miami dynasty.
A bold ploy, for certain, and those around Riley wouldn't expect anything less.
"I think that's why we all love working for Pat. He thinks big," Spoelstra said last week. "He really does. You have to embrace that when you work for him. I think it's an exciting mentality. Everything he does, he's thinking about how to direct this team to a championship and that really galvanizes everybody here that's working in this building.
"We have a singular goal. We're all working for the same thing," Spoelstra added. "And this summer, Pat has a proven track record of attracting players. Wouldn't bet against him."
There's so many variables this summer — Wade's decision, other free agents — that no one, not even Riley, can predict what'll happen.
He did point out that no matter what, the job of building a championship-contender won't end in early July, like some might speculate.
As he's prone to do, Riley drew a parallel between what might happen now and what happened with his "Showtime" Lakers, where a piece at a time got added to create one of the best clubs in NBA history.
"Whether or not what happens is what everybody thinks might happen, we'll see," Riley said. "But I think we'll be able to build a very good team over the next 18 months."