MINNEAPOLIS - After committing in the offseason to coaching the Heat through 2009-2010, Pat Riley is leaning toward stepping aside after this season.
With his team struggling and in need of a significant roster overhaul, Riley said it might be in the franchise's best interest if he focuses solely on his role as team president.
"But that's after this season," Riley stressed, as he looked ahead to Tuesday night's game against the Timberwolves at Target Center. "That's not now."
Riley, 62, said he was torn by the commitment he made to owner Micky Arison to hold the dual roles over the remaining two-plus seasons on his Heat contract.
"Sometimes, just with me, I feel like now, more than ever, I might be butting heads with both jobs," he said. "And I've revisited that over and over again."
Several NBA coaches have final say on personnel decisions, ranging from the success of San Antonio's Gregg Popovich to the failure of New York's Isiah Thomas.
But Riley said he now sees why the majority of teams divide the responsibilities.
"I was much better, I believe, just as a president," he said, "because I wasn't having to deal with the personalities."
Just over a year ago, Riley left the team for six weeks to undergo knee surgery and a hip replacement, with assistant Ron Rothstein guiding the team back into playoff contention.
Riley insisted there would be no such break this season, but backed off considerably from the statement he issued on Aug. 18, when he said, "I'm going to coach another three years, the terms of my contract. … I don't want to be a one-and-done guy every year. I have three years left on my contract and I will coach those out."
At the time, Riley thought the Heat would return to title contention. Instead, it has sunk to the bottom of the league, in part because of front-office decisions that have stripped the team of much of its 3-point shooting, defensive grit and quality depth.
"As a coach," he said, "there's a real personal attachment that I have had with players that is not as objective on the other side."
Given the opportunity by Monday's deadline to clear the Heat of two non-guaranteed contracts, Riley retained forward Alexander Johnson and center Joel Anthony, leaving his roster at the league-limit of 15 and denying the team the opportunity to try out prospects on 10-day contracts.
"I grow very close to guys, young guys that might not be performing for me, because I've always been that way," he said. "That's how I sort of related to guys as coach."
Riley has spoken of selecting his successor from his staff, with Erik Spoelstra, 37, considered the front-runner among the current assistants. Riley also is particularly close to longtime coach Mike Fratello, the former Heat television analyst who has been out of the league since being dismissed last season by Memphis.
Riley's anticipated enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame would be in September, a ceremony that could provide closure to a coaching career that produced four championships with the Showtime Lakers in the '80s and a 2006 title for the Heat.
"I think this has to be addressed," he said of a full-time return to the front office. "It has to be addressed by me in an honest, objective way."