Rick Carlisle is coming back to Indiana to coach the Pacers after deciding his time leading Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks was over.
Carlisle confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday he has agreed to return to the club he coached for four seasons from 2003-07. He led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals his first season.
The 61-year-old Carlisle decided to leave the Mavericks last week, a day after general manager Donnie Nelson left the club. Dallas owner Mark Cuban said it was Carlisle’s decision to leave.
After a decade as an assistant coach, Carlisle’s first head coaching job was with Detroit in 2001. He spent two seasons with the Pistons, leaving after leading them to the East finals in 2003.
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Carlisle will be the Pacers’ third coach in less than 12 months. Nate McMillan was fired in August after four consecutive first-round playoff exits. McMillan’s replacement, Nate Bjorkgren, was fired after one tumultuous season with Indiana.
The Pacers are betting Carlisle, a one-time assistant on Larry Bird’s coaching staff, will bring stability to a veteran team that was eliminated in the play-in round, ending a streak of five consecutive playoff appearances.
Carlisle is 836-689 overall in tenures with the Pacers, Pistons and Mavs. He spent the last 13 seasons in Dallas, going 555-478 and winning the franchise’s only NBA title in 2011. With Indiana, Carlisle went 181-147 in four seasons.
What they’re getting in Carlisle is something they didn’t have in Bjorkgren — a coach with a long track record.
The question will be how he fits in?
Players told Pritchard in exit interviews they thought Bjorkgren was a micromanager and it led to problems privately and publicly, such as a shouting match between backup center Goga Bitadze and assistant coach Greg Foster.
In Dallas, there were similar complaints — and results — about Carlisle.
While he led the Mavericks to their only championship with superstar Dirk Nowitzki and is the winningest coach in franchise history, Carlisle didn’t win another playoff series in Dallas.
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. There were occasional signs of tension with Carlisle and Doncic, including angry gestures toward the coach during games from the 22-year-old two-time All-Star.
Still, Cuban had said he expected Carlisle to return after another first-round exit. But after the departure of Nelson, who once called Carlisle “our Jerry Sloan,” it didn’t take Carlisle long to decide to move on as well.