BEST LOCAL SPORTS COACH Stan Van Gundy Miami Heat Much has been written about Stan Van Gundy, almost all of it centered on his humble demeanor and rumpled wardrobe, both in stark contrast to his mentor and the coach he unexpectedly replaced in 2003, NBA legend Pat Riley. Since the leadership change, columnists and sports-radio wiseacres have overused the word dumpy, made fun of Van Gundy's mustache, and generally ignored the fact that the man can coach. Sure, he has Shaq and Dwyane Wade (and Riley whispering in his ear), but Van Gundy took a Shaq-less Heat team much further into the playoffs than anyone expected last year, and he's used role players Michael Doleac, Damon Jones, and Keyon Dooling brilliantly this year. Yes, Shaq Shogun is the baddest man on the floor, but if the Heat finally reach the promised land this year, credit must go to the man behind the man.

Readers´ Choice: Stan Van Gundy

BEST POLITICAL COUP Carlos Alvarez In late July 2003, when the director of Miami-Dade's police department entered the race to become the county's second executive mayor, no one gave him a chance against the other political war dogs in the contest. Many saw Alvarez as a fifth-place finisher behind José Cancela, Maurice Ferré, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, and Jimmy Morales. Yet Alvarez's grassroots campaign, supported by the state's largest police union and enabled by public campaign funds, inflicted serious damage on the well-oiled electoral machines operating in 2004. He obliterated Cancela, Ferré, and Diaz de la Portilla in the August primary. November 4 he clobbered Morales with a margin of nine points. His success could encourage other outsiders to take aim at one of the most entrenched political institutions the world has ever seen -- the Miami-Dade County Commission.

BEST ERRATUM August 3, 2004

Miami Herald "A map in Saturday's Business section mislabeled Biscayne Bay, the body of water to the east of Biscayne Boulevard...."

BEST HEAT PLAYER Shaquille O'Neal Sure, the way young Dwyane Wade dunks over opposing centers and dishes out dimes like candy at a parade is a thing of grace and grandeur. The way Damon Jones, who looks more like your neighbor than an NBA guard, swagger-skips down the court after one of his automatic three balls brings smiles. And the rest, a gathering of talent that brought a season of joy to this sports-loving city, deserve commendation. But the abundant wins, the reason the seats filled up for each game, the Heat's ability to spend so much time this year as odds-on favorites for the Eastern Conference crown can all be attributed to the fact that the most dominant center in the league for the past ten years now wears the black and red. When the team traded its entire starting front three for Shaq, it received much more than an athlete. He's a Greek play in four periods, the human colossus, court jester and king, Santa Claus on Christmas, and the Fort Knox of NBA hardware. Other teams can't stop him because, as he says, "I'm like the Pythagorean theorem: No one has an answer to my game." With a nickname for any occasion -- from the Big Aristotle to Shaq Shogun to the Big Diesel -- he never takes himself too seriously. He jokes with the media, is generous to the fans and the community, and is beloved by his peers. Shaq's main contribution has been the way he's created off-court camaraderie with the other players by engaging them in social activities. Going to movies or dinner together may not be much at first glance, but many marriages, and perhaps one championship, have been built on same. Take a big smirking bow, number 32.

Readers´ Choice: Dwyane Wade

BEST AM RADIO PERSONALITY Bishop Victor T. Curry WMBM-AM (1490) Imagine your average radio talk show. A couple of hosts prattle on about the news, sports, and entertainment while occasionally taking calls from agitated listeners. Now imagine that wrapped in scripture and gospel music, and you'll have the wonderful Morning Glory show, which airs weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. with an extra two hours added on Tuesdays. Especially when it comes to controversial subjects, it's easy to get riled (a number of callers certainly do) and say to yourself, I wish I knew more about scripture so I could actually argue with the good reverend. That's the point.

Readers´ Choice: Neil Rogers, WQAM-AM (560)

BEST LOCAL GIRL GONE BAD Geralyn Graham Graham has been charged with murdering a four-year-old girl placed in her care by the state. She has yet to stand trial. Still, even if what the 59-year-old Graham says is true -- that state workers came and picked up little Rilya Wilson and never returned her -- it's shocking enough. Who loses a four-year-old? Who doesn't make enough phone calls to track her down and make sure she's all right? That, of course, is the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario, the one prosecutors allege, is that Graham suffocated or beat the child to death (no body has been found yet). And don't forget Graham's long record of identity theft and fraud convictions. Her son was also convicted for taking part in fraud schemes with her. All in all, she's not worthy of caring for a houseplant, let alone a little girl.

BEST PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT The Margulies Warehouse

591 NW 27th Street

Miami

305-576-1051 Visitors to South Florida continuously marvel at the private art collectors here who have thrown their personal stashes open to the public, and real-estate developer Martin Margulies has more than risen to the occasion. He owns an array of cutting-edge modern photography that rivals any museum, and he wants to share it. His collection, hung inside a sprawling Wynwood warehouse, covers the field's titans, and whether your tastes skew toward Walker Evans or Cindy Sherman, there's truly something here for everyone. Although Margulies certainly appreciates the field's classics, he has also embraced some of today's hottest shutterbugs, from Dutch portraitist Rineke Dijkstra and her studies of charmingly gawky adolescents to New York's current bad boy Anthony Goicolea, who puts a whole new delicious twist on the notion of the self-obsessed artist. For those who have only seen these photos reproduced as small images in magazines and books, gazing upon the actual full-size shot isn't just a treat -- it's a public service. Did we mention admission is free?

BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH Chili's 19905 Biscayne Boulevard

Aventura

305-682-9898 When you've had enough of the fake tits and tans on South Beach, head north on a Saturday night to indulge yourself in a cross section of real people to watch. This joint is jumping -- there's always a crowd outside waiting for tables -- but head to the bar area for the first-come, first-served seating and an ideal view of the entrance. From high school kids heading to the prom (yes, their dates really did take them to Chili's), to twentysomething partiers getting loaded up on reasonably priced two-for-one cocktails before heading to the clubs, to European tourists and senior citizens, there is a never-ending supply of characters from central casting to watch, admire, or make up crazy stories about.

Readers´ Choice: Lincoln Road

BEST DANCE COMPANY Giovanni Luquini Performance Troupe www.luquinidance.org "Straight out of Miami, and into the world, we bring you groove, myth, and athletic fury," Giovanni Luquini declares on his Website. If it sounds like an intense statement for a dance company, well, it is. And rightly so. There is nothing soft or delicate about this troupe (the members will happily leave the tutus-and-tights fare to the Miami City Ballet), because Luquini, who formed the GLPT in 1996, a year after he moved from his native Brazil to Miami, insists on pumping dance, theater, athletics, and raw emotion into every stretch, turn, and jump. His performances are a multimedia sensory overload -- urban poetry, pop culture, and real emotion rolled into one dynamic performance. His latest work, Slices, is no exception. The moving neo-noir poem incorporates superheroes, belly buttons, and DJ Le Spam. Dance is supposed to make you tingle, not fall asleep, and Luquini delivers just the right amount of caffeine.

BEST LOCAL LANDMARK Archway at Sunshine State International Park 1300 NW 167th Street

North Miami-Dade

305-624-8585 In 1964, when Miami was still a pretty dinky town and el exilio thought they'd be returning home shortly, the newly erected concrete archway at the Sunshine State International Park seemed too big for its britches. Since then the metropolis has grown up around it, and today it's just part of the landscape. Thousands of Palmetto Expressway commuters pass by it every day without a thought. A modest echo of Eero Saarinen's famed St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Miami version also suggested a gateway, but this one opened to the south, toward Latin America. Of course four decades ago it must have seemed ludicrous to imagine Miami as a gateway to anywhere but the mosquito-infested Everglades. Designed by Charles Giller and O.K. Houston, the parabola actually straddles NW Thirteenth Avenue at the entrance to a large industrial park (not a recreational park) that includes other examples of Miami Modern architecture.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®