Monday, May 12, 2008

What About Rick Carlisle?

There have been numerous articles posted on the internet about the New York Knicks hiring Mike D’Antoni as their head coach, and I’ve enjoyed each one, but why aren’t people talking about the Dallas Mavericks hiring Rick Carlisle as their head coach? D'Anatoni is taking over a bad team and is being asked to make them good. Carlisle is taking over a good team and is being asked to make them champions, a much more difficult assignment.

The premise of most of the D’Antoni posts is that he won’t have the talent to run his up-tempo offense. That might be true, but convincing basketball players to run and shoot more isn’t exactly a daunting task and I assume he will encounter no resistance to his mandate for more offense. Carlisle on the other hand is a defensive-minded coach with a grating personality. How do you think former league MVP Dirk Nowitzki will react to his new coach telling him not to take such quick shots, to play in the low-post more on offense, and to be more physical on defense? How will Jason Terry like being told to “slow down”? And Jason Kidd already bumped heads with one dictatorial coach when he played for Byron Scott in New Jersey. Carlisle makes Scott look like a sweetheart.

The Mavericks have built their roster for a fast-paced motion offense. Their star is a 7’0 jump-shooter, and their point guard, while rapidly aging, is still most effective in the open court which requires running, These are not acceptable factors in Carlisle’s strategy. He likes to win the possession battle, eliminating turnovers and working the clock while looking for the easiest shot. On defense, he demands attention to detail and very physical play. This team and this coach couldn’t possibly be more different.

The Mavericks have been very successful during the regular season in the past few years, winning 60, 52, and 50 games, but have faltered in the first round of the playoff the last two seasons after losing in the 2006 NBA finals. They like who they are, and they liked their last coach – Avery Johnson. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who thinks he knows more about basketball than he actually does, did not like Avery Johnson, at least he didn't like him as the coach of the team anymore. He decided that what this team needed was a tougher identity, but it’s just not that easy. Great teams play the best style for the talent they have. The Detroit Pistons are best when they play slow and methodical because of their older, fundamentally sound players. The Los Angeles Lakers are best when they get up the floor quickly and score before their opponent sets its defense. Carlisle is not flexible, however. He will want the Mavericks to be something they are not, and in the end, Cuban will have to decide on this coach or this roster.

So, while D’Antoni is encouraging his team to pass and shoot more, Carlisle will be screaming at his players to take more charges and set more picks. Who do you think will have the easiest transition to his new team?

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