The Dallas Mavericks have a rich history of head coaches in their 42 years of existence. It started with Dick Motta in the 1980s. The Mavs' first coach won a championship with the Washington Bullets in 1978 and led Dallas to four playoff appearances in their first seven seasons. All-time great point guard Jason Kidd became the team’s tenth head coach last summer, and he has made a massive impact on the team’s success.
The NBA announced the 15 greatest coaches in league history as part of their 75th-anniversary celebration and former Mavericks head coach Don Nelson made the list, but one former Dallas head coach was surprisingly absent.
Here is a closer look at the list, Nelson’s time in Dallas, and why former Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle deserves a place among the 15 best coaches in NBA history.
Don Nelson named among NBA’s best coaches: Rick Carlisle snubbed
The Mavs hired Nelson as head coach and general manager in 1997 after successful stints in Golden State and Milwaukee. He quickly turned the franchise around after a decade of losing. Nelson and his son were key figures in scouting Dirk Nowitzki and bringing him to Dallas. They also traded for Steve Nash and turned the Mavericks into a winning franchise and annual contender.
Nash left in free agency in the summer of 2004, which spelled the beginning of the end for Nelson in Dallas. He wanted the Mavericks to re-sign him, but owner Mark Cuban declined to match the Suns' offer. Nelson gave up his coaching duties after 64 games of the following season and resigned as GM following the 2004-2005 campaign.
The Hall of Famer made the playoffs in 19 of 31 seasons as an NBA head coach that spanned stints with the Mavericks, Knicks, Warriors, and Bucks. Nelson never won a championship, but he helped revolutionize the game by spacing the floor and increasing the tempo. It was fantastic to see Nelson honored as one of the NBA’s all-time great coaches.
Rick Carlisle is arguably the greatest coach in Dallas Mavericks history, but he did not make the top 15 all-time list. He led the franchise to his lone championship in 2011 and has made the playoffs in 14 of his 19 seasons as a head coach. Carlisle spent 13 seasons in Dallas before resigning last summer.
Nelson and Jerry Sloan are the only two coaches in the top 15 that did not win a championship. There is a strong case that Rick Carlisle deserved a nod over one of them.
Will current Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd go down as all-time great during the NBA’s 100th-anniversary celebration? He is off to a strong start. Hopefully, Rick Carlisle and Don Nelson both make the 20 greatest coaches of all time during the celebration in 25 years.