Wednesday night marked a historic milestone for Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle. With his team’s victory over the Charlotte Hornets, Carlisle notched win no. 800 for his career. It’s a mark that only 15 other coaches have attained in the history of the league.
Carlisle isn’t one to dwell on personal accomplishments in the moment, but he isn’t dismissive of them either. He credits a lot of people for the success he’s had during his 19-year career.
“I’ve just been extremely fortunate,” Carlisle said. “I’ve had great ownership all along the way from Mr. [Bill] Davidson, to the Simon family, to Mark [Cuban], and exceptional players.”
Carlisle bounced around the league as an assistant coach for more than a decade before the Detroit Pistons pulled out the big chair for him in 2001. He found success instantly.
He led the Pistons for two seasons and consecutive 50-32 records, winning Coach of the Year honors in 2002. Detroit made the Eastern Conference Finals in his second and final season with the team. The Pistons let Carlisle go after that season but wasn’t out of a job for long.
The Indiana Pacers hired him in 2003. He coached there for four seasons, compiling a 181-147 record. The Pacers reached the playoffs three times under Carlisle, and also saw some of the franchises brightest and lowest moments.
He never reached the NBA Finals in his first two stops as a head coach. In fact, both teams wound up firing him for various reasons. Still, his impact on the organizations’ culture was indelible and saw him coach some of the finest players of the 2000s.
“Detroit—guys like Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, [Richard] Hamilton, [Jerry] Stackhouse. Those guys were terrific,” Carlisle said. “Reggie Miller, Jermaine O’Neal in Indiana.
“And then I rode the Dirk train for a long time.”
It’s likely that Carlisle will best be known for his time with the Mavericks. After a year away from coaching, in which he spent time as a television analyst with ESPN, Dallas hired Carlisle. By taking the job, Carlisle became attached to the hip of Dirk Nowitzki’s career. It worked out well for both of them.
The pinnacle for the pair came in 2011 when the Mavericks won the NBA Championship. In the years since, there’s been a great deal of roster turnover, but Carlisle has managed to field a competitive team most seasons.
As Carlisle nears the 20-year mark of his head coaching career, he’s helping usher in a new era for the league. Last season, under his guidance, the Mavericks posted the most efficient offense the NBA has ever seen.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mavericks have two of the best players in the league on their roster. With the help of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, Carlisle will add a few more wins to his historic career before it’s all said and done.
Carlisle, in many ways, has his willingness to adapt, experiment, and continually learn to thank for his longevity. But as he notes, it’s the players and a variable set of circumstances that make all the difference.
“Now, we’ve got two great young players in Luka and KP,” Carlisle said. “You got to have all those things to be around as long as I have. I’m just extremely grateful, don’t take any of it for granted. It’s a privilege to be one of 30 coaches in this great league.”