Zo Returning to Heat

Mourning will be VP of player development

Alonzo Mourning is returning to the Miami Heat - as an executive.

Mourning announced Friday that he will soon begin a new job as Miami's vice president of player development, with a wide range of responsibilities, many of them off the court and in community relations areas.

He'll also spend some time mentoring young players, a role he took on in the latter portions of his playing career.

"My on-court contributions are retiring, but I still feel like I can contribute to the game," Mourning said. "I'm very knowledgeable, a student of the game, and I think my experiences can help the team and the players."

After retiring earlier this year, it was clear that the Heat would find a place within the organization for Mourning. He was the franchise cornerstone and an all-time favorite of both Miami president Pat Riley - his former coach - and Heat owner Micky Arison.

While the exact terms of the deal are not complete, they apparently decided that a player development spot fit best.

"It's a no-brainer," Mourning said. "Obviously, I feel like my relationship with Pat and Micky has developed over the years and has enabled us to do some special things for the organization."

Mourning was the second overall pick in the 1992 draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He also played for New Jersey but spent the majority of his career with the Heat, brought there by Riley in the mid-1990s and helping them win the NBA title in 2006.

He left the game twice because of kidney disease that necessitated a transplant, but says he feels healthy as ever. After announcing that he was done for good, Miami made Mourning's No. 33 the first jersey to be retired in franchise history.

"The best is yet to come," Mourning said.

Mourning is expected to start the job sometime this summer.

"We are in discussions with Alonzo and in stages of finalizing a long-term relationship," Riley said.

In 15 seasons, Mourning averaged 17.1 points and 8.5 rebounds. His total of 2,356 blocks ranks 10th in league history, and he retired as the Heat career leader in points, rebounds and games - Dwyane Wade passed him for the scoring lead this past season.

"We were hoping and waiting for this day," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's going to ease into his role. Right now, it's going to be with player development and we welcome that. He is such a positive influence whenever he's around, especially for our young guys, but even for the veteran players. ... He'll show our young players what it means to be professional and to be a Miami Heat player."

The 39-year-old Mourning has already gotten started in his new job, at least in one respect.

He's developed a strong friendship with Wade over the years, especially lately. They've joined forces on some charitable events, including Mourning's popular Zo's Summer Groove weekend series.

Now, many of their talks revolve around Mourning trying to ensure Wade signs a long-term deal with Miami and doesn't leave after this coming season.

"Having D-Wade on the team is going to make my job a whole lot easier," Mourning said. "Make everybody's job a whole lot easier, to tell you the truth."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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