"But what can he do? He has a videocassette in his hand, and he thinks, 'I can throw this through the front of the TV,' but no, it might explode and the glass might hurt someone. You don't want fate to intervene and make your gesture fall flat."
"Fred Schaus once kicked a trash can and it had a cement block in it and he broke his toe," says Riley. "Once I tried to throw a folding chair, and it folded up on my hand, on my finger, and hurt like hell, and it only went about two feet."
"Then, in comes a man with a tray of about 40 Cokes, in paper cups," says Towne. "Riley thinks, 'I can clear this tray.' He's been deliberating so long, the team is about dressed by now, but he does it. He sweeps his arm across the tray and sprays Coke and cups all over, including Abdul-Jabbar's seven feet of new suit. And Riley has the satisfaction, while he makes his case for how terrible they are, of being able to crunch around, grinding the ice cubes into the carpet."
"There isn't anger in the world," says Riley gently, turning his own behavior into an object lesson. "All there really is, is truth. In the Bible it talks about the Kingdom of God being of truth. When anger gets in the way, you don't get to the truth."
Magic Johnson puts it slightly differently: "If there have been rough spots, I have made it rough. If it's chewin'-out time, I know I deserve it."
Since Sharman, the Lakers' president, West and Buss make front-office decisions, Riley judges talent and hustle. "Recognition of effort," says Bertka, "is an instinct in him. He knows what a guy can and can't give him. I've seen him compliment players when we have lost, because he knows they gave it their best shot."
"My background is in psychology," says Chris Riley. "But Pat is so stable, he'd be a better therapist than I. When there's a problem, he's good at finding out about it early."
"There are so many things people say are problems that aren't," says Riley. "So many things they can control but won't. Peace and contentment are inside. Feeling comfortable with your environment, not being judgmental, not being victimized, not procrastinating, those are all inside."
And all are the signs, he believes, of a team that has grown together. "The four teams that have dominated the league in the last six years, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and the Lakers, have all made covenants with each other," he says. "As you mature, players begin accepting territories. They tolerate each other's idiosyncrasies. They begin protecting each other."
On the Lakers that includes protecting the coach. "When Magic took such heat for dribbling the clock down and not passing to Kareem until there was no time to get a shot off in Game 2 in the '84 finals," says Riley, "he never said that the coach told him to control the ball. I should have given him a second option, but he never once said anything about that. He took it all on himself and lived with that all summer."