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Rick Tok: In appreciation of Rick Carlisle

The head coach of the Dallas Mavericks is so much more than that.

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Last Wednesday night I was getting ready to go to bed, it was late but not too late, the kind of evening where nothing was going on and more sleep is always better in an ever more chaotic world. Then something appeared on twitter, via TikTok:

A fifteen second video, posted by Abby Carlisle, daughter of Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. I watched it once. Twice. Then a few more times. Then I sent it to everyone I could think of. I was howling with laughter and genuine joy. Something about seeing Carlisle out of the element I’m used to seeing him in brought the biggest smile to my face.

Over the years, we’ve been blessed with some truly incredible Carlisle moments. The peace sign:


The time he put tape over his mouth in the 2015 playoffs to avoid getting a fine talking about the NBA referees:

The smile during the NBA Finals:

NBAE/Getty Images

I think the smile stands out to me because it’s really rare. Go through the various Getty or USA Today images we have available to use in our photos for articles by searching his name, and it’s amazing how many photos, game after game, are the exact same: a slight scowl or his hands in the air in bafflement at a call. But the grin, the earnest smile, doesn’t come out often. It says a lot about Luka Doncic that he was able to bring it out earlier this year after the miraculous Game 4 win against the Clippers.

There’ve been more than just these moments that make us smile. Rick Carlisle is a fantastic leader and as head of the NBA Coaches Association, he’s been a vocal and consistent advocate on issues of racial justice and equality. During the NBA Bubble, he began every press conference by reading a passage from the racial injustice calendar as compiled by the Equal Justice Initiative.

Then there’s the time he reminded us all that he’s a father, during Dirk’s retirement ceremony, starting it off saying “on a personal note, this is Abby Carlisle who came here when she was four years old. And she’s going to be in high school next year, and she might have a chance to stay in the same school for all 12 years because of [Dirk Nowitzki].”

(Bookmark this video, if you haven’t already. It’s a great pick me up on rough days.)

Past coaching, he’s got a diverse set of interests. In 2015, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon did an extensive profile of Carlisle around the time he was learning to fly airplanes. Everyone’s known for years that he’s a great piano player, but it’s fun seeing him play every time.

Once nice part about running a website like this one in the off-season is making the choice to write about whatever I want. And today, I wanted to take a minute to appreciate Rick Carlisle for more than his on-court contributions. There’s also this story I may not have told before.

Years ago, I went as an actual media member to cover a Mavericks game, it was perhaps my third time getting credentialed. It was New Years Day 2014, and Dallas was in town to play the Wizards. I’d never gone to pre-game availability before, so I was standing around in shoot around not knowing what the hell I was supposed to be doing and not noticing all the other media had cleared out.

Carlisle singled me out. “Hey, are you with us?” he asked. I turned around, thought he had to be talking to someone behind me. He knew the answer was no, but he asked me anyway. The crimson flush to me face was instant. I muttered something, then realized I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He told me I had to leave. I did so. I never covered another game again. If I couldn’t stand up to a stern glare and an embarrassing question, it wasn’t going to be for me. So we all have Rick Carlisle to thank for me not really making a serious go at being a media member.

Following the 2011 championship, we’ve watched Rick Carlisle do more with less, year after year. Though the Mavericks had clear incentive to tank in some seasons, he’s always led extremely competitive teams. I took to calling him the Warlock of the West years ago and it’s surprising how he’s never really sniffed a Coach of the Year award during his 12 seasons in Dallas. Despite how frustrated the hardcore fans get from time to time with rotations, minutes for younger players, or drop coverage (that last one might just be me), he’s incredible and I hope he’s the coach for a long, long time.