Rick Carlisle Q&A after hiring

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Posted: May 12, 2008


Asked if he’s coming to Dallas to rebuild, Rick Carlisle couldn’t help but laugh. The new coach of the Mavericks already knows that staying clear of that R-word is a good idea in these parts.

“The last thing I would ever want to do is use the term ‘rebuilding’ around Mark Cuban,” he said before another chuckle.

Carlisle takes over a franchise that’s reached the playoffs the last eight years and competed for the NBA title less than two years ago. A pair of potential Hall of Famers bookend a roster that’s sure to undergo significant change before training camp opens in October.

The challenge of taking over from Avery Johnson is one Carlisle isn’t backing down from. Despite several other openings and a rewarding year off the sidelines, he couldn’t pass up the chance to coach Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, and work with Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson.

Carlisle will be introduced as the ninth coach in franchise history Wednesday, but he took time out Monday from his home in Indianapolis to visit with Mavs.com for his first extended interview since taking the job Saturday. He took the call in the basement. Just don’t expect to find him or the Mavs there after he makes the move to Big D.


Mavs.com: You stayed pretty busy over the last year. Why did you want to get back into coaching and what specifically attracted you to this job?

Rick Carlisle: My plan was to take a year and step away and recharge, do some television work, spend a little more time with the family and get more of a spatial view of the game. I was able to do that. When some of the coaching openings started to happen, I had the opportunity to talk to a few teams and then the Dallas situation came about very abruptly. As soon as Avery left, they called me and asked if I would be interested in talking to them and I said, ‘Sure.’ Donnie and Mark both made their way to Indianapolis, we spent some time talking here and then I went down to Dallas and talked some more. We just got going on the idea of doing a deal and getting this thing done.


MC: How do you view this situation differently from your previous stops in Detroit and Indiana?

RC: This situation is different from the previous two I’ve been in. One of the reasons I feel this is a great opportunity for me is that this is a different collection of players than I’ve had in the past. I’ve coached, to a large extent, power post-up teams. We played through Corliss Williamson and Jerry Stackhouse in the post in Detroit, and in Indiana we played through Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest and Al Harrington, so this is a different kind of team.


It’s going to be great for me to have the opportunity to take a different approach. I think this team needs to be more of an up-tempo-type team. We have a great leader in Jason Kidd that I have to give the ball to and let him run the team, which I’ve done with some of the point guards I’ve had in the past. I think there will be a real premium on using the space on the floor and being a real good movement team, but not forgetting about the importance of the defensive end. That’s one of the really important things Avery did in his time here was establish a defensive disposition and commitment. And that’s certainly one of the reasons they’ve had the level of success they’ve had.


MC: Players around the league have always said Kidd is one of the guys they’d love to play with. Sounds like coaches feel the same way.

RC: Jason Kidd is a Hall-of-Fame player who’s still playing at an All-Star level. Every player in the league would love to play with him because he gets you the ball where you can do something with it. Players, in general, want to play in Dallas because of Mark Cuban and the attraction to the city and where the franchise has ascended to in terms of prestige. I’ve always loved Jason from afar. You look at his record when he comes to a new team – that team almost always takes an immediate step up.

This year was a little different because he came in two-thirds of the way through the season and Avery didn’t have the opportunity to use him from Day One in a training-camp situation, and sort of have a plan and style for how to utilize his abilities. I think that made the situation challenging for Jason and Avery as well. We’re going to have the opportunity to go from Day One with him and I’m looking forward to it. This is a guy that’s got a lot left in the tank and I’ve never had the opportunity to coach a player quite like him.

I had [Chauncey] Billups my second year in Detroit. I coached Reggie Miller a couple different times as an assistant and head coach, and he was a great player. Jermaine O’Neal and Artest were both terrific players, but never a Hall-of-Fame caliber point guard.


MC: Is there anything you wish you would have done differently in Detroit and Indiana?

RC: With experience there’s growth. I’m not a big believer in having regrets or looking back that much, but I’ve learned an awful lot from players and I’ve learned an awful lot from coaches that I’ve worked with and worked for.

I’m going to lean on Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban a lot, with their knowledge of the personnel to help us get off to the right kind of start here. This situation is quite different from the previous two, and that’s a real stimulating motivational thing for me.


MC: You spent some training camp time with Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix. What did you take from that experience to apply to your style?

RC: I love the way that Phoenix utilizes all the space on the floor. They play small, which allows them to keep the middle of the floor open and Steve Nash is great facilitator. My hope is that we can apply some of those philosophies to the team in Dallas with Jason and Dirk, and be able to have a point guard that can get in the paint and also have a power forward that can stretch the defense way beyond the 3-point line.

Those are the kinds of things I’m excited about because it’s new territory for me. I’ve done some of that with the teams I’ve been with, but I see this team as one that has to play with momentum offensively, has to play with a lot of movement, and we have to be passionate and vigilant about the defensive end as well.


MC: So what led to the Larry Bird post-up demonstration during your meeting with Dirk?

RC: We were talking about some stuff that Bird used to do when he played that I thought would translate well to his game. Just some footwork stuff and leverage stuff. There’s no question that Dirk Nowitzki is a big attraction to this job and having played with Larry during his absolute prime, which was ’85-86-87, Dirk right now is about at the age Larry was when I was first with him in Boston. Dirk has a lot of great basketball left. The similarities between those two guys are striking on the one hand, and yet there are some things that Dirk can add to his game to make it a little more efficient at times.


MC: What was the meeting like with Dirk?

RC: The thing that strikes you right away is how tall this guy is. Bird was big. He was almost 6-10. Dirk is a good 7-feet with his shoes off. It’s just mind-boggling to think that this guy can potentially play some small forward, which I would never rule out. You can establish some pretty good matchup situations with that. His height is the thing that jumps out at you and when you factor in his skill set at that height, you’ve got one of the most unique players that has come along in the last 20 years.


MC: You’ve had talks with Donnie about getting Josh Howard back on track. That has to be an offseason priority.

RC: We need him to be one of the best all-around players in the Western Conference for us to be as good as we can be. I’ve had a chance to visit with him on the phone a little bit. We’re going to get together in the next couple days when I’m down there and we’ll talk some more about it. He’s one of those guys that because of his size, length, quickness, agility and skill that is really important to what you do offensively. I just also believe that he has to be one of our best defensive players.

I see Josh bringing some of the all-purpose aspects to our team that Shawn Marion brought to Phoenix. I just don’t see any reason why he can’t do that based on his physical attributes. We’ve got to point him in the right direction and it’ll take a lot of sweat. It’s going to take time, but that’s what this is about. We’re excited about working with him. I think he’s going to be very motivated to get back to Western Conference All-Star level.


MC: Do you view this as a rebuilding or is it a retooling situation?

RC: The last thing I would ever want to do is use the term ‘rebuilding’ around Mark Cuban. One of the other reasons I was attracted to this situation is because Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban have been able to reinvent this team a couple of times over the last five or six years.

We’re at a point where there is going to be an opportunity to make some changes to the roster and we’re in a pretty good position to do some things. I’m very optimistic about the summer. One of the most important things is what you do with your minimum-contract guys. Because Dallas is such an attractive situation for players, we feel we can win the ties if it’s between us and another team. We’ve got to make sure our strategy is very precise and decisive.


MC: Is bringing in youth and athleticism the key, especially at the swingmen spots?

RC: The way the game is played and officiated now, every team in this league is looking for speed, athletic slashers and 3-point shooting. We’ll be no different. That’s basically where the game is. I’ve just got a lot of confidence in Donnie and Mark being able to push the right buttons and being able to get guys to jump on board.


MC: After all those years in the East, you picked a fine time to join the West.

RC: It’s no picnic out there. It’s very challenging. The Southwest Division alone may be the most competitive division in all of sports with the way New Orleans has come up.


MC: How would you describe a Rick Carlisle team?

RC: The things that have always been important to me are unselfishness at the offensive end, hard play and a commitment defensively. Our challenge is to be able to play with a flow on offense and still maintain possession-style mentality defensively. The teams that can do that well are teams that can play at different speeds and are teams that play a style of basketball that’s fun to watch, coach and play. That’s what we’re looking it. That’s our mission statement.