Udonis Haslem is not a man who gets intimidated.
The icon of Heat culture is about to enter his 20th NBA season and he backs down from nobody. But Haslem admitted in a recent interview when he first came to the Heat he avoided talking to team president Pat Riley because of his mob, Godfather vibe.
"I ain’t never been afraid of no man, but I think the first two years with the Miami Heat, I ain’t even speak to Pat. … I watched The Godfather. I seen all that shit."@ThisIsUD on Pat Riley is 🔥. pic.twitter.com/zdfcSLeA8f
— Boardroom (@boardroom) August 29, 2022
“Pat Riley, the symbol, you probably wanna look at some mob s***. I ain’t never been afraid of no man but I think the first two years with the Miami Heat I didn’t speak to Pat. It was just uncomfortable, the slicked back hair, the pants and shoes. I watched Godfather. I seen all that s***. I think the first couple of years, it was just uncomfortable. Pat Riley, the image, I think people hit the nail on the head. He’s just f****** Godfather. Pat Riley, the man is a winner, like myself, regardless of what situation he’s been put in. He wasn’t the greatest basketball player. He wasn’t obviously the greatest coach the way the situation started out … He maximized that opportunity. The sky was the limit.”
That sums up Riley well — he has made himself a success at every level of basketball. He can be intimidating, but he is also shrewd, clever, and maybe the best recruiter of any front office member in the league — he splashed his five championship rings in front of LeBron James when they talked before his move to Miami.
Riley and the culture he helped the Heat build is a crucial reason Miami is an NBA destination, one of the few teams where top free agents are willing to go (the weather, lifestyle, and no state income tax also help). The Heat remain title contenders this season — they had the best record in the conference last season, and if Jimmy Butler drained a late playoff three against the Celtics we might be talking about a Finals team — but while other East teams improved this offseason the Heat lost P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris. There are questions.
But there is no question Pat Riley and Udonis Haslem will lead them. Those men understand each other… now.