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Rick Carlisle Lands On His Feet As Indiana Pacers’ New Head Coach

James Murphy
by in NBA on
  • Rick Carlisle has agreed to a four year deal to be the head coach of the Indiana Pacers.
  • Carlisle previously coached the Pacers for four seasons starting in 2003.
  • Carlisle was the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks for 13 seasons until the two sides parted ways last week.

Many people don’t react well when they lose a job. With the possible exception of having your wife run off with another man there are few more cliched triggers for a ‘downward spiral’. Worst case scenario, a recently dismissed employee will take solace in the bottle, drugs or other forms of degeneracy. Even the best adjusted individuals will at least take a few days off before planning their next move.

And then there’s Rick Carlisle. Carlisle either resigned or was shown the door as the Dallas Mavericks’ head coach on June 17. Just one week later, he’s already got a new gig. Carlisle will take over as the head coach of the Indiana Pacers after agreeing to a four year deal worth a reported $29 million USD plus incentives. This is Carlisle’s second stint with the Pacers–he coached Indiana for four seasons from 2003 to 2007 putting up a record of 181-147 with three playoff appearances.

Carlisle will take over as head coach of the Pacers after the team fired Nate Bjorkgren after one season at the helm. It was Bjorkgren’s first NBA head coaching position though he was a head coach at the high school level (Cactus Shadows High School in Arizona) and with a couple of developmental league teams (Dakota Wizards/Santa Cruz Warriors, Iowa Energy and Bakersfield Jam). Bjorkgren had one guaranteed year left on his original three year contract with the Pacers. The word on the street is that Bjorkgren had ‘temperament issues’ dealing with his staff and a veteran roster with playoff level talent. Despite everything, the Pacers brass still holds his coaching ability and high regard though he’d probably be a better fit for a ‘rebuilding project’. That isn’t the situation in Indiana, however, where there’s a nice nucleus of talent including of Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner.

Indiana president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard made the call to hire Bjorkgren after interviewing nearly 20 candidates. He made the call to fire him as well and now suggests that previous head coaching experience is a ‘non negotiable’ trait:

“There are certain things [traits] that are nonnegotiables for me going forward. I hope I’ve learned from this in terms of selecting the right coach.”

Enter Rick Carlisle, newly on the market after a 13 year run in Dallas where the Mavericks won the NBA Championship in 2010-2011. Experience definitely isn’t an issue with Carlisle–he’s coached in the NBA since 1989 first as an assistant with the New Jersey Nets, Portland Trail Blazers and Pacers. He got his first head coaching job with the Detroit Pistons in 2003 and with the exception of one year between jobs has been at the helm of NBA teams for the past 20 years. Carlisle’s resignation in Dallas comes one day after longtime president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson left his job but he maintains that it had nothing to do with his departure:

“You never want to get to a point where you ever feel like you’re overstaying your welcome, and I just felt like this is the right time. I just have such great respect for [Mavs owner Mark Cuban] and everyone there, and I’m fortunate to move on to another great opportunity.”

Carlisle is excited about the talent on hand in Indiana:

“It’s a team of skilled, unselfish guys that play hard. It’s always possible that moves could be made before the season, but I think [GM Kevin Pritchard] and I are both very excited about getting the roster healthy and seeing what this team can be.”

Back in Dallas, the Mavericks are still in the process of hiring a new president of basketball operations and a new head coach. Michael Finley has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Nelson with current Mavs’ assistant Jamahl Mosley and former Dallas point guard Jason Kidd are reportedly top candidates for the head coaching vacancy. On Thursday, Carlisle gave this emphatic endorsement for Kidd due in large part to what he could offer 22 year old superstar guard Luka Doncic :

“My hope is that Jason Kidd will be the next coach of the Mavs because he and Luka have so many things in common as players. I just think that it would be a great situation for Luka, and I think it would be an amazing situation for Jason. I’m the only person on the planet that’s coached both of those guys and that knows about all of their special qualities as basketball players. To me, that just would be a great marriage, but that’s just an opinion.”

In a class move by Dallas owner Mark Cuban the Mavs won’t ask the Pacers for compensation for hiring Carlisle despite having two years left on his contract. Cuban reportedly didn’t want to make it more difficult for Carlisle to find a new job. Carlisle was effusive in his praise for his former boss:

“He is a trusted friend and a basketball soulmate. You occasionally come across people that change your life, and he changed my life, and he changed my family’s lives. It’s very difficult to come up with a simple statement to thank somebody for the 13 years that I’ve had with him.

After head coaching hires by Boston and Indiana there are five NBA teams that still have vacancies: Dallas, Washington, New Orleans, Orlando and Portland.

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