Danny Ainge Vs. Pat Riley Feud Resurfaces As Celtics Prepare For Heat

Ainge and Riley have been feuding for decades

by Marcus Kwesi O'Mard

September 12, 2020

There’s no time like the present to bring up some old beef.

A long-running feud between Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and Miami Heat president Pat Riley is one of the juicy subplots of the teams’ upcoming Eastern Conference Finals series. Ainge and Riley famously engaged in a war of words in 2013, and NBA writers such as The South Florida Sun-Sentinal’s Ira Winderman and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst brought it back to the surface Saturday morning after Boston beat the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series to set up the decisive series against Miami.

Bad blood between Riley and Ainge dates back to when the former was head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and the latter was a Celtics guard, and the teams met in the NBA Finals three times in four seasons between 1984 and 1987. Windhorst noted Friday how their animosity extended to 1993 when Ainge was playing for the Phoenix Suns and Riley was coaching the New York Knicks, and the teams had one of the biggest brawls in NBA history. Here’s what Riley said 20 years later, just after the Celtics-Heat rivalry had peaked, in response to Ainge’s criticism of LeBron James.

“Danny Ainge needs to shut the (expletive) up and manage his own team,” Riley said. “He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him.”

Ainge fired back.

“I don?t care about Pat Riley,” Ainge replied. “He can say whatever he wants. I don’t want to mess up his Armani suits and all that hair goop. It would be way too expensive for me.”

Perhaps time has healed the wounds Riley, 75, and Ainge, 61, previously inflicted upon each other. Probably not, though.

Here’s one more reason why this Celtics-Heat series should be fun.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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