The Dallas Mavericks reached new heights under Rick Carlisle. He was the head coach for their championship team in 2011 and made the playoffs in seven of his first eight seasons in charge. With Dirk Nowitzki aging, the Mavs decided to rebuild and missed the postseason three straight years before returning for the last two with Luka Doncic in the superstar role.
Carlisle coached the Mavericks for 13 seasons, and he is the winningest coach in franchise history. He routinely got the most out of his roster and is regarded as one of the top coaches in the league.
After the team’s second straight first-round playoff exit and GM Donnie Nelson’s departure, Carlisle resigned in the summer of 2021. There were reports of rifts within the front office (subscription required) and Carlisle feuding with Doncic. The veteran coach decided to head to Indiana instead of continuing in Dallas on shaky ground. Would Carlisle change how things went down with the Mavericks?
Would Rick Carlisle change how he coached Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks?
Tim MacMahon did a fantastic piece about the relationship between Carlisle and Doncic that is a must-read for all fans. Fans know from his 13 seasons in Dallas, Carlisle was a demanding coach, especially on his point guards. Luka is not afraid to be coached hard and fire back at the man in charge, but their relationship soured on how Carlisle treated others. The article talks about Dennis Smith Jr. and Salah Mejri specifically, two players Doncic shared close relationships with during his early days in Dallas.
DSJ took to Twitter to agree with the accounts in the article on Wednesday morning.
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Coach Carlisle is not the best people person. Those reports date back to his first stint as a head coach with the Detroit Pistons in 2003 when now Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups said this following his departure.
"He got criticized for not being a personable guy… but on the court, he did a good job with us. We were happy with him. But off the court, he just didn’t treat people the right way, and it caught up with him."
Carlisle has improved in those aspects over the years, but the coach can be harsh and demanding. He is adaptable too. Carlisle gave Doncic the keys of the offense as a rookie and empowered the teenager on his way to Rookie of the Year and two first-team All-NBA honors. He quickly recognized Luka's greatness and helped him flourish.
The issues between Luka and Rick were not how Carlisle treated his star but his friction with other players. Doncic was spotted yelling at the head coach numerous times last season, and it was clear that their relationship had only deteriorated over time.
Would Rick Carlisle change it if he could? That is only a question he could answer, and fans can bet he has no desire to discuss it. Carlisle is back coaching the Pacers, and the Mavericks have moved on to Jason Kidd. The relationship between Luka and Rick was far from perfect, but the championship-winning coach helped Doncic become an NBA superstar.
Carlisle routinely got the most out of his rosters, so it is unlikely that he would change things. Would he have loved to stay in Dallas after 13 seasons leading the Mavs? Likely so, but he knew his tenure had reached an end, so he moved on.
Rick Carlisle will forever be a legend in Dallas for bringing the Mavericks their first championship. His tenure did not end how anyone planned, but it is worth remembering the positives about the winningest coach in franchise history. Banners hang forever, and the Mavs may not have one without Carlisle.