View Full Version : Carlisle the reason Indiana has a title shot. good article

05-04-2004, 05:09 PM

Carlisle the reason Indiana has a title shot
Bird's decision to replace Thomas with coach looks brilliant

Mike Celizic.


By Mike Celizic

NBCSports.com contributor

Updated: 9:58 p.m. ET May 03, 2004It wasn’t the smoothest transition ever when Larry Bird told Isiah Thomas he was no longer needed and hired Rick Carlisle to coach the Pacers. And hiring a guy who had been cast adrift by another team for not winning enough playoff games added to the controversy.

But changing coaches, especially ones such as Thomas, is never a placid affair. The new guy has to pose under a microscope on the way to his new office and have every wart and blemish and scar poked at and described in nauseous detail before listening to squads of total strangers comment on whether he’s fit for the job.

We heard he was inflexible and not very good at communicating. He didn’t get along with management. He didn’t do a lot of things, we heard, which is why Detroit kicked him out despite consecutive division titles and getting to the Eastern Conference finals last year.

But now that Carlisle’s first season has extended into May, with June getting closer, the many criticisms and questions that greeted him on his arrival in Indianapolis seem petty, and we don’t hear a lot about his lack of communication skills or stubbornness.

And, before the Pacers even play a second-round game, you have to give Bird credit. He got this one nearly perfect.

Carlisle did more than succeed with a franchise that has had a lot of success over the years yet still fights an image of being something of an underachiever. He didn’t just win the East, he had the best record in the entire league and set a franchise record with 61 wins.

Not that no one is criticizing him anymore. Now, what we hear is that he’s a shameless promoter of his own players, going so far as to send videos and stat breakdowns to writers in what was a successful effort to sell his player, Ron Artest, as the Defensive Player of the Year.

Pistons’ coach Larry Brown, who was selling his own player, Ben Wallace, intimated that Carlisle’s marketing campaign was bush league. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who wanted his Bruce Bowen to get the prize, sneered at the stat package Carlisle compiled to support Artest.

Okay, so maybe Carlisle went a little overboard, resorting to the sort of promotional campaigns that we find so annoying when waged by colleges in support of their real or imagined Heisman Trophy candidates. On the other hand, it’s hard to criticize a coach for praising his own players.

Before Carlisle arrived in Indy, Artest was known for two things: Defense and objectionable behavior, and not in that order. A year ago, Artest missed 12 games because of six suspensions, including one levied against him by his own team. He was often out-of-control on the court and a total jerk off it, as when he smashed a television camera for the sin of recording his image in a corridor under Madison Square Garden.

This year, Artest has missed just two games, including one in the first round of the playoffs when he took several steps onto the court from the bench during an on-court scrum. Instead of declaring that everyone was picking on him, Artest acknowledged that he did the crime and was ready to do the time.

So if Carlisle supported Artest, the player gave him a lot of reason to. Artest became a better citizen under Carlisle, and don’t think that didn’t have a lot to do with the quiet maturity the Pacers showed under their new coach. And, if you were coaching the Pacers, who would you rather have as your friend, Artest or Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich? Me, too.

Carlisle’s ability to get Artest on his side and with the program is perhaps a clearer indication of the coach’s ability than the Pacers’ 61 wins. The two are intimately related, as are the performances of a line-up that is, despite the presence of Reggie Miller, one of the younger teams in the league. With Miller, the Pacers average 27.6; without him, 26.7. Their two premier players, Jermaine O’Neal and Artest, are just 25 and 24 respectively.

Guys who are stubborn or who yell too much don’t have the kind of success Carlisle has with players as young as these. Either he learned a lot since leaving Detroit, or the Pistons exaggerated Carlisle’s alleged deficiencies to justify letting him go.

It doesn’t matter now in either city. The Pistons had a very good year under Brown, and the Pacers are very happy with Carlisle.

In fact, everybody involved in the coaching changes came out looking pretty good. Thomas, after whining mightily after Bird let him go, landed on his feet in mid-season in New York, where, as general manager, he created the first genuine excitement Knicks fans have felt in three years.

The Pacers are more than happy to let New York have its little burst of euphoria. Thomas, they are surely saying, is behaving the same way with the Knicks as he did when coaching the Pacers, which is with too much emotion and not enough patience. He got the Knicks into the playoffs — with a sub-.500 record — but whether they are actually a better team for the future is questionable.

Carlisle, meanwhile, has given the Pacers what they lacked — an even keel. The team talks now not about cranking itself up about approaching the game like blue-collar workers, with determination and dedication and hard work. So far, they’ve been awfully successful, winning the East and wiping out Boston in the first round.

It’s a great start, and best of all for the Pacers, Bird won’t panic and change coaches again if the Pacers don’t make the NBA Finals. Carlisle’s his one-time teammate on the Celtics and his man for the job. Larry Legend will stick with him. Looking at what he’s done, who wouldn’t?

Mike Celizic writes regularly for NBCSports.com and is a freelance writer based in New York.

05-04-2004, 05:24 PM
I know they didn't mean it that way, but the subtitle is hilarious:

'Bird's decision to replace Thomas with [a] coach looks brilliant'

05-04-2004, 05:36 PM
Finished reading, and it is a very good article.

05-04-2004, 05:52 PM
I'm sure all of this was taken verbatim from Carlisle's press releases. Shameless self-promotion.

05-04-2004, 06:40 PM
I'm sure all of this was taken verbatim from Carlisle's press releases. Shameless self-promotion.

Yeah, I think the ficticious stat of 61 regular season wins is a joke. There he goes making up statistics again. Shame on him (Carlisle). ;)

05-05-2004, 04:29 PM
Thanks for posting this as I would've missed it otherwise. It is nice to have someone finally give Rick his due and point out the rediculousness of some of the things people put out against him. We have one of the best coaches in the game today, no doubt.

05-05-2004, 04:34 PM
I know they didn't mean it that way, but the subtitle is hilarious:

'Bird's decision to replace Thomas with [a] coach looks brilliant'

:laugh: :thumbup: