By Chris Sheridan
ORLANDO - If there's one man out there who can empathize with Erik Spoelstra regarding the limbo-like situation he now finds himself in, it is the man who was forced to step aside the last time Pat Riley decided to return to head coaching.
"I feel bad for Erik. That's an offseason of speculation he's facing on whether Pat's going to coach," Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said Tuesday night prior to the Magic's second-round opener against the Atlanta Hawks.
Riley left the door open to a return to coaching on Monday when he told reporters in Miami that he wouldn't rule it out if it helped the Heat in their quest to land a marquee free agent to play alongside Dwyane Wade next season. The Heat will have about $23 million to spend in free agency this summer, and as I mentioned in my chat yesterday, they could clear more room -- even enough for two max-salary free agents -- by finding a way to shed the contracts of Michael Beasley, James Jones and Daequan Cook.
It was Van Gundy who was forced to step down 21 games into the 2005-06 season when Riley decided to return to the bench, and Van Gundy did not return to coaching until the Magic hired him in 2007.
Now, history may have a chance of repeating itself.
"I didn't see it coming, but I don't get surprised by too much," Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy also reiterated that he does not expect his brother, Jeff, to return to coaching anytime soon, and he also expressed hope that assistant coach Patrick Ewing will at least get a chance to interview for one of the several vacant head coaching positions around the league.