I just got home from a 15 hour drive. I'm tired and grumpy. I became even grumpier when I saw Dallas lost to the Spurs again. It's the sixth game Dallas has lost in a row. The Mavs have lost nine of ten. Like many of you, I am really not happy with our Dallas Mavericks being 12-19. I'm just very disappointed.
But do you want to know what made me really angry? The repeated calls from people for Rick Carlisle to be fired.
Let me be clear: if you think Rick Carlisle is to blame for the Dallas record, you know absolutely nothing about basketball. That this team has won 12 games is a miracle.
I don't mean to be condescending. I've seen the calls previously and even understood some of the frustrations. "The defense is terrible." "Brandan Wright needs to play more." "He's too hard on Collison." "The team can't rebound!"
If you think Wright should play more that's one thing. If you think Wright not playing is why Dallas is losing, that's something else entirely. It's also wrong. There's a long list as to why Dallas is losing. To assign blame to Carlisle alone is ridiculous.
This isn't an instance of a coaching philosophy not working. This is an instance of the players Carlisle has to work with not fitting together. Outside of Jared Cunningham, Dallas has had 17 players see significant playing time, including three longtime NBA veterans who have been waived, and two first round rookies. The remaining pieces are either ineffectual, old, or still developing. How is he to blame for the front office thinking Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy, or Derek Fisher were actual answers for a supposed playoff team?
The defense has been bad because Dallas doesn't have a defensive center for the first time in years and all of the new pieces are still learning their assignments and rotations. The rebounding has been horrid because the best Dallas rebounders are all past 30 years of age. The turnovers are rampant because the front office signed young guards who have issues with ball control. Can a coach help fix some of these problems? Of course. Can he be held solely responsible though? Of course not. These issues have been readily apparent since the second preseason game against FC Barcelona.
Carlisle was brought in after Avery Johnson lost the team with his rigid personality and inability to adapt his coaching strategies to best use the Dallas roster. Since then, Carlisle has proven his worth time and again by getting the very best out of the roster at his disposal, culminating in the 2011 title.
We will all remember Dirk marching through the playoffs and leading Dallas to the title. But he wasn't alone. The coaching during second round destruction of the Lakers and all time great Phil Jackson was impressive. The 4-1 Western Conference finals win over the Thunder was an exercise in coaching brilliance. Scott Brooks had no answer for any shift in tactics from Carlisle, and frankly, that Thunder team was more talented than Dallas. But the Heat series should define Carlisle's legacy. Though the media likes to perpetuate the idea that Lebron faded from the bright lights of the finals, the reality is that Carlisle and Dwayne Casey marginalized Lebron's effectiveness by forcing him out of his comfort zone in every Dallas victory.
You don't fire the coach who led you to the title, especially not when the team he's coaching is lacking in a variety of areas and has played the majority of it's games without the best player on the team. Outside of Dirk, Carlisle is the second most important Maverick asset. O.J. Mayo came to Dallas to learn from Carlisle, to grow as a player. Given his start to the season (ignoring his slump as of late) I guarantee you players around the league have taken notice. This matters when dealing with young free agents.
Not to mention there are 25 other teams in the league who would love to have him as their coach. Replace Scott Brooks with Carlisle and Kendrick Perkins doesn't play more than a few minutes a game and the Thunder might win 65 games. Put Carlisle in Utah and the Jazz are easily a playoff team. I could keep going.
If we want to talk problems or assign blame, I'm certainly up for a hearty discussion. The front office, player development, even the over all Cuban/Nelson strategy of hoping for a big fish free agent are all things that should be discussed. But Carlisle? I simply don't know what else he can do. Pick nits all you want about specific decisions, but look at the big picture.
Carlisle will be the Dallas coach for the foreseeable future. So stop calling for his head.