They hated each other in the 1980s, when Ainge was a guard for the Celtics in the Finals against Riley’s Los Angeles Lakers.
They hated each other in the 1990s, when Ainge was playing for the Phoenix Suns and Riley was coaching the New York Knicks and they both were involved in a brawl. Ainge and Riley ended up on the deck, Riley ripping his pants. It led to a record 21 players getting fined or suspended.
Since 2003, when Ainge was named Celtics president of basketball operations, they’ve hated each other as rival executives, with Riley in charge of the Heat since 1995.
“Danny Ainge needs to shut the f— up and manage his own team. He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him.”
Ainge’s response: “I don’t care about Pat Riley. 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.”
The Celtics won in a 2010 playoff meeting. The Heat won in 2011. In 2012, the Heat won a seven-game classic in the conference finals.
Riley signed Ray Allen away from Ainge. Ainge beat Riley on signing Gordon Hayward.
Now a new chapter. There are new faces — well, except for Haslem — out on the court. There are new styles — if there were a 21-player brawl today, there might be a congressional investigation — being employed.
But this Eastern Conference finals series is still Heat-Celtics. And that means it’s Riley-Ainge. These are their teams, with their character and carrying their legacy.
It has almost never let us down.