A straightforward question with a complicated answer. Okay, not too complicated, to be honest. We all think he's great.
It felt like there was more criticism of Carlisle this year than usual. In your assessment, where does he rank among NBA coaches?
Hal Brown (@HalBrownNBA): He's second to me, still, behind Pop. I understand maybe considering Kerr and Budenholzer up there -- and that's not just a "hey look how good those teams are!" thing, the coaching job they've done is amazing -- but they just don't have the resume to totally sway me yet. Does Carlisle have his issues? Oh hell yeah, play a young guy just once, Rick! But he's incredible at everything else. Him clashing with Rondo is a non story to me, but I also think understand people trying to hold onto the idea that Rondo can be a valuable contributor in the modern NBA.
Bailey Rogers (@BRogers789): As frustrated as I am about his complete unwillingness to give major playing time to young guys with potential, I still think Carlisle is the second-best coach in the NBA. Simply put, he is a basketball strategy savant. I have no idea how he does the things he does, but he took Monta Ellis, JJ Barea, Tyson Chandler, Al-Farouq Aminu, and the corpse of Dirk and somehow competed against a 2-seed with an MVP candidate, maybe the best big man in the NBA, and a horde of talented young rotation players. Other than maybe Pop, no one else in the NBA can do that. I'm still not convinced that it isn't sorcery of some sort. Really his only flaw is his stubbornness, but as much as I bitch about it, I never want him to leave Dallas, ever.
Kirk Henderson (@KirkSeriousFace): He's still top three. He's one of a handful of coaches to have a championship. Dallas has to give him some plays to work with who aren't on the decline or one way players.
Jonathan Tjarks (@JonathanTjarks): I think the correct answer to this question is who cares. Coaches are pretty overrated on the internet when the reality is a lot of coaches can win an NBA championship but very, very few players can. Rick is a great X-and-O's guy and he can gameplan as good as anyone in the league, but he hasn't been out of the first round in four seasons because he hasn't had the players. I don't view having an "elite" coach like Carlisle as all that important if the talent base he has to deal with is getting progressively worse. The main concern I have with him is that he has never been a guy whose shown a lot of patience with younger players and that's not going to work for a franchise that, at the very least, has a pretty substantial re-tooling job ahead of them.
Andrew Kreighbaum (@kreighbaum): This wasn't necessarily Rick Carlisle's finest season, even with the Mavs hanging tough against the Rockets for most of the first round. He often stuck with lineups like the Nowitzki-Stoudemire frontcourt pairing in spite of the on-court results. He's still one of the league's top five coaches but the ending of the last few seasons have shown us that's irrelevant without enough talent on the court. The Celtics' Brad Stevens is widely acknowledged to be the best young coach in NBA but his team was still swept in Round 1 because they didn't have any great players.
Maybe Carlisle is a selling point for potential free agents but at some point it would be nice to see him give playing time to younger players over veterans like Stoudemire with little left in the tank. Teams like Houston and Golden State have been successful attracting free agents in part because they've developed quality talent from within. That starts with the front office scouting and drafting players but the coach has to embrace that job as well.
Tim Cato (@tim_cato): The guys above me have summed it up rather well. I just think the way we view coaches -- the way we criticize them, or don't -- is weird. Everyone generally says Carlisle is, at worst, the fourth-best coach in the NBA, but he's not perfect, just like the players he coach. He groan about Monta Ellis' bad defense but we don't complain about it. We're not expecting him to be better defensively because he has a proven track record of being poor.
For some reason, coaching feels different. If a coach trusts his veterans to a fault, it's a terrible sin every time it happens. I've been guilty of it, too -- something that, in some ways, is highly hypocritical. I think that coaching is probably more accessible. You, me, guy down the street, angry yeller on Twitter ... none of us could do any better than Monta Ellis on defense. But we could arguably, debatable do better than Carlisle, at least in the one specific instance of him trotting Charlie Villanueva out continually when Dwight Powell could probably play better defense. (Incidentally, this is probably the same argument taken by anti-hack-a-Shaqers, believing that in that one skill they could perform better than the player on the floor.) Meanwhile, Gregg Popovich can bench his best player (Kawhi) for a missed defensive assignment in a playoff game and somehow nobody bats an eye. I don't know why or whether it really matters, but the way we look at coaches is weird. Just remember that next time you want to get irrationally angry at Rick.