Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Then-Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle looks on during a January 2019 game against the team he is now moving to, the Indiana Pacers.

AJ MAST/The Associated Press

When Kevin Pritchard hired a new coach in October, he took a calculated risk.

This time, the Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations went for the known commodity.

Pritchard hired long-time Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on Thursday, bringing back the 61-year-old NBA veteran to the team that relaunched his head coaching career almost two decades ago. Carlisle confirmed the decision to The Associated Press, although the team had no immediate announcement.

Story continues below advertisement

The Pacers clearly believe Carlisle can bring stability to a veteran team that battled a rash of injuries last season. The result was a losing record and their first playoff absence in six years.

Carlisle will get a chance to make a quick fix with the same organization he led from 2003-07 and took to the Eastern Conference finals in his first season with the team.

This time, he becomes the third Pacers coach in less than 12 months.

Nate McMillan was fired in August after his fourth straight first-round playoff exit and just weeks after signing a contract extension. His replacement, Nate Bjorkgren, lasted just one tumultuous season in his first NBA head coaching gig before he was fired this month.

The Pacers know what they’re getting in Carlisle, too – a disciplined, old-school coach who spent three seasons as Larry Bird’s assistant during the most successful era in franchise history. Those traits could help the Pacers improve defensively after yielding 115.3 points a game, 25th in the league last season.

The bigger question might be whether Carlisle is the right fit.

After an embarrassing season-ending loss to Washington in the play-in round, Pritchard acknowledged Pacers players described Bjorkgren as a micromanager in their end-of-season interviews. The problems even spilled into public view during an in-game shouting match between backup centre Goga Bitadze and assistant coach Greg Foster and amid reports of locker-room drama.

Story continues below advertisement

Carlisle had similar issues in his 13th and final season in Dallas.

Two-time all-star Luka Doncic occasionally showed his anger by making angry gestures toward the coach during games, and there were reports of “simmering tension” between the two before Carlisle resigned last week, one day after general manager Donnie Nelson left the club. Dallas owner Mark Cuban said it was Carlisle’s decision to leave.

Carlisle is 836-689 over all in tenures with the Pacers, Pistons and Mavs. He went 555-478 and led Dallas to its only NBA championship in 2010-11 with superstar Dirk Nowitzki and is the winningest coach in franchise history. But after making the title run, Carlisle didn’t win another playoff series.

The Mavericks lost in the first round six times, including this year and last year to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first two postseason appearances for Doncic.

Still, Cuban had said he expected Carlisle to return next season. But after the departure of Nelson, who once called Carlisle “our Jerry Sloan,” it didn’t take Carlisle long to decide it was time for a fresh start elsewhere.

Carlisle spent three seasons as Larry Bird’s assistant before taking the Detroit Pistons job in 2001. He was the 2001-02 NBA coach of the year. Two years later, Indiana brought back Carlisle, who went 181-147 in four seasons and was the East’s all-star coach in 2004.

Story continues below advertisement

He also played five seasons in the NBA, winning a championship in 1985-86 as Bird’s teammate with the Boston Celtics. When his career ended in 1989, he spent the next decade bouncing around as an assistant before getting his big break in Detroit.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies