Rick Carlisle hired
Rick Carlisle didn’t waste any time getting to work … even if he didn’t have the job just yet. The 48-year-old coach ran his first practice in, of all places, Dirk Nowitzki’s living room.
Carlisle’s tour of Mavericks with influence last week took him to the home of last year’s MVP. While discussing strategy and his vision, Carlisle got Nowitzki up off the couch for an impromptu demonstration of Larry Bird post-up moves. Somewhat odd? Sure, but Nowitzki appreciated the enthusiasm.
So did everyone else. The search for the ninth coach in club history targeted Carlisle from the start and as the process progressed, it became apparent the search would be one and done. The franchise finalized a four-year contract with Carlisle on Friday night, with the signing expected Saturday and an introductory press conference Wednesday.
“Incredibly excited that Rick has come on board,” owner Mark Cuban said. “His coaching record speaks for itself. He has a unique ability to coach multiple styles of play, which we think makes him a great fit for the Mavs.”
Carlisle replaces Avery Johnson, who was dismissed on April 30 – the day after New Orleans eliminated the Mavs in the first round. Dallas is the third coaching stop for Carlisle after previous stints with Detroit and Indiana.
President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said that Carlisle fit the profile of “balanced winner” the organization was looking for after Johnson’s tenure. Not only is Carlisle a proven NBA coach – five playoff trips in six seasons – but his teams are traditionally sound defensively and solid offensively.
During his last job as an assistant, Carlisle served as “offensive coordinator” for an Indiana team that reached the NBA Finals. He also spent training camp last October with the Phoenix Suns studying Mike D’Antoni’s offense.
Carlisle made a strong initial impression after meeting in Indianapolis last week with Nelson, who praised his “basketball IQ.” Separate meetings followed with Cuban and Nowitzki in Dallas. Jerry Stackhouse played for Carlisle in Detroit and has always spoken highly of his one-time coach.
Reshaping the roster will be one of the first orders of business for Carlisle, Nelson, Cuban and the rest of the front office. The Mavs potentially have eight free agents coming off a disappointing 51-31 regular season and 4-1 playoff loss. Dallas has reached the postseason the last eight years.
After more than a decade as an assistant, Carlisle cut his head coaching teeth with the Pistons in 2001-02. Detroit went 100-64 (.610) with two Central Division title and one trip to the Eastern Conference finals under Carlisle, the 2002 Coach of the Year. Despite the successful run that restarted Detroit’s current playoff streak, the Pistons fired Carlisle in 2003 and replaced him with Larry Brown.
Carlisle wasn’t out of work long. Bird, his former Boston teammate and Indiana president of basketball operations, brought Carlisle back to the Pacers that offseason. He had also been on Bird’s staff in Indiana before taking the Detroit job. Carlisle led the Pacers to the NBA’s best record at 61-21, the most wins in franchise history, and his third straight Central Division championship during his first year leading the Pacers.
The Pacers would make the playoffs the next year (2004-05) with a 44-38, but the season was derailed by the infamous Indiana-Detroit brawl on Nov. 19. “I felt like I was fighting for my life out there,” Carlisle said at the time. “I’m sorry the game had to end this way.” After the suspensions and trades, the Pacers were never the same. Indiana did sneak into the postseason in 2006, but Carlisle was let go after missing the playoffs in 2007.
Carlisle began his playing career as the only rookie to make the Celtics in 1984. He played three years in Boston and was a member of the 1986 championship team led by Bird. After retiring in 1990, he joined Bill Fitch’s staff in New Jersey.