April 9, 2006
Q&A with Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle
By Mike Wells
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- A talented starting five. A deep bench. A coach who won at least 50 games in each of his first three NBA seasons and led a team that dealt with injuries and suspensions to 44 victories last season.
Back when the season began in November, the Indiana Pacers seemed to have all the pieces to compete with Detroit and San Antonio for the NBA title.
The Pacers have gone from a possible elite team to one that is three games below .500 and in danger of missing the playoffs.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle talked about the season Saturday:
Question: As the coach of what many thought was a title contending team this season, how tough has this been on you?
Answer: Every season has its challenges and every team has different kinds of pressure and expectations. This (season) has had some unusual challenges based on the fact that we went through something similar last year. All things considered, I'm really happy with the way our guys have continued to compete through some tough circumstances. Over a two-year period we've asked guys that were supposed to be bench players to be starters. Guys that were supposed to be depth players to be rotation players. That's been a challenge for the players. We had over 300 man games missed last year and 31 different starting lineups. This year we've got 220 man games missed and 31 different starting lineups. It's difficult, but the reality is you accept it and deal with it.
Q: Were expectations set too high at the start of the season?
A: That's a hard question for me to answer, because winning a championship is everybody's goal in this league. I don't think high expectations should ever be a bad thing because every team should have a goal to win a championship. Do I think it was unrealistic? I'm not going to say that's true because that would be a copout. I don't think it would be right, because our franchise worked very hard to get to a point where we have a deep roster and a lot of talented players.
Q: How frustrating has it been knowing the talent you have on this team, but you haven't been able to get them to compete hard every game?
A: There have been stretches where we could have played harder, but I'm not disappointed with our overall effort this year, considering the circumstances. We certainly could have done better to this point. We've had struggles to win games and we've had a hard time finishing off teams (when) we've had the opportunity. That has been difficult.
Q: How much responsibility do you take for what has happened this year?
A: As a coach you are always responsible. That's just the way it is. I don't think anybody here is looking for a free pass. I'm certainly not. We could have done better to this point. We haven't. A lot of that is going to fall on the coach and I understand that. I have to keep approaching this team the same way: with a positive tact and belief we can get it together. Not to do that would be unfair to the players. It would be unfair to the fans and it wouldn't be right for the franchise.
Q: Has this season been more difficult than last year when you dealt with the injuries and suspensions?
A: It's been more difficult because we've struggled to win as many games as we did last year. Both seasons have been a great test of fortitude and a lot of things.
Q: This team has been labeled "underachievers." Is that a fair assessment?
A: If you want to evaluate it to this point, we could have done better for sure. We're going forward, and we have to stay positive and believe and keep working to get better and find a way to win games. It's as simple as that. I hope people would hold off judgment on this team until the season is over. Right now our focus is to get some more wins to make sure we get in the playoffs.
Q: How confident are you this team can maintain its spot in the playoffs?
A: I still have a strong belief in this group. I know they care. These last stretches of games will not be easy, even though it looks like a very favorable schedule. We're going to find out what we're made up of as a team.
Q: Do you feel like the window will close on this team if you don't win a championship?
A: I'm not sure if there will be any changes. In this league, there's always a possibility of change. That's just the facts of life. I hope the window has not closed. I would like to see this group get a chance to get through a season completely healthy and see what they can do. Time will tell. That's a question that should be directed more at management than the coach.
Call Star reporter Mike Wells at (317) 444-6053.