“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” Harvey Dent said in The Dark Knight. Rick Carlisle was absolutely a hero after the 2011 finals when he coached the Dallas Mavericks to their only championship in franchise history. Carlisle deserved a ton of credit for his ability to make adjustments and unleash Dirk Nowitzki.
Fast forward through a decade of mediocrity and Carlisle has seen himself become the villain. Carlisle was incredibly difficult on players and famously feuded with several of his point guards including his successor, Jason Kidd. The cracks in the Carlisle armor as a hero began fairly famously with Kendrick Perkins stating on ESPN that “Former players I talked to never say anything good about Rick Carlisle.”
The Mavericks made two playoff appearances since then with Luka Doncic going supernova in each. However, the team was unable to win a single series, completing a decade of playoff futility. During that time, the Mavericks went 393 and 394. That futility, coupled with Carlisle’s prickliness opened him up to these forms of criticism.
Winning is the ultimate deodorant and when the Mavericks were competing for titles, Carlisle’s constant picking and prodding was acceptable but a decade of .500 basketball caused that picking and prodding to be maddening for the Mavericks players.
Since the Mavericks reported to camp, there have been lots of shots at Carlisle from all corners of the organization. Jason Kidd implied that Kristaps Porzingis was not used properly. Porzingis echoed those sentiments.
All of this is fine. Carlisle was difficult and the players and staff are free to revel in their new found freedom. It was time for a change and both parties are better with Carlisle gone. But while everyone is rushing to pile on Carlisle since he has become the villain, don’t forget to praise Carlisle from when he was the hero. Because he absolutely was one at one point.