in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Pat Riley of the Los Angeles Lakers becomes the first coach to win 100 playoff games in the NBA as the Lakers beat the Houston Rockets 104-100 in their opening-round series. The previous record was held by Red Auerbach, who won 99 games, most with the Boston Celtics. It would be Riley’s final season with the Lakers he later coached the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, winning a total of 171 games.
Pat Riley was born on March 20, 1945, in Rome, New York. After playing basketball at Schenectady High School, Riley went to the University of Kentucky and played for the legendary Adolph Rupp. Drafted seventh over in 1967 by San Diego Rockets, Riley played in the NBA for a decade, spending time with the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns before retiring in 1976.
After retiring, Pat Riley worked as a broadcaster for the Lakers, before joining Paul Westhead’s staff in 1979. In 1981 when Westhead began to clash with star Magic Johnson, Riley became the head coach of the Lakers six games into the season. The Lakers would go on to win their second championship in three years. The Lakers would reach the NBA Finals in seven of the next eight seasons, with Riley as the coach winning four NBA Championships as Los Angeles became Showtime.
Red Auerbach had the previous record for wins as a coach in the NBA postseason. The Celtics won eight straight championships at the end of Auerbach’s coaching career. At the time, there were fewer teams and fewer rounds, so winning the NBA Championship took just 8-11 wins. By the time Showtime reached its prime, the NBA was three or four rounds, needing 15 wins in the playoffs to win an NBA Championship.
In the 1989/90 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were the best team in the NBA at 63-19. Heading into the playoffs, Pat Riley had 98 career playoff wins. After a 101-89 win in Game 1, the Lakers beat the Rockets 104-100 in Game 2, despite Hakeem Olajuwon tying the record for ten blocked shots in a postseason, the record was set by Mark Eaton of the Utah Jazz in 1985. The Rockets would take Game 3, but the Lakers would advance in four games. The Lakers would go on to the Western Conference Finals, where they would be stunned by the Portland Trail Blazers in six games. After the playoffs, Pat Riley would step down as coach of the Lakers.
After sitting out a year, Pat Riley returned to the NBA coaching circles with the New York Knicks. After four seasons with the Knicks, including an appearance in the 1994 NBA Finals, Riley stunned the Knicks and became the coach of the Miami Heat. Pat Riley has been with the Heat ever since. He coached the Heat until 2003, and again from 2005-2008, winning the NBA Championship in 2006. When Pat Riley stopped coaching, he had 171 playoff wins. His record by then had been topped by Phil Jackson, who has won 229 playoff games. Riley remains second, though Greg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs in just four behind at 167.