By Mike Wells
Posted: May 2, 2009
Rick Carlisle did what many thought he couldn't: change.
The biggest adjustment, something his former Indiana Pacers players ached for several years ago, came in late January.
Carlisle, now coaching Dallas, folded up his trusty blue card filled with set plays, tucked it inside his tailored suit and put his confidence in the hands of his point guard.
Carlisle quit micromanaging. He let go. Jason Kidd, a future Hall of Famer, now runs the show.
Kidd, Carlisle and the Mavericks ran all the way to a 50-32 record and first-round blitz of third-seeded San Antonio in the playoffs.
Dallas plays Denver in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday.
"Night and day," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in an e-mail about the effect Carlisle's tactical change had on the team's performance. "It showed the team that Rick trusted them, which in turn picked up the energy and cohesiveness of the team."
Carlisle often frustrated the Pacers, in particular Jamaal Tinsley, by repeatedly slowing the tempo and calling plays throughout his four seasons as coach.
Several Mavericks told the Dallas Morning News earlier this season that Carlisle called plays 70 percent to 80 percent of the time during the first three months of season, but just 20 percent to 30 percent of the time after turning it over to Kidd.
"That was real pivotal in us gaining momentum in the second half of the season," Carlisle said in a phone interview earlier this week. "He's such a good player and has such a good pulse on our players that the more he could facilitate off the fly during games was helping our team."
Carlisle, fired as Pacers coach after the 2006-07 season, spent last season as a TV analyst. He said being out of coaching for a year helped him "step back and study the game from a different perspective and re-energize" himself.
Darrell Armstrong played for Carlisle with the Pacers. They have reunited in Dallas, with Armstrong serving as a "development assistant coach."
He sees the change in Carlisle.
"He's done a great job with the players," Armstrong said. "He tries to communicate with them more and get their thoughts. At the same time, he gets his thoughts across, too. It's also helped Jason out. I haven't seen him talk this much before and I played with him for a year (in New Jersey)."
Carlisle knew he would coach again, but he didn't think he would be doing it in Dallas, which was two years removed from reaching the NBA Finals.
He had talented players such as Kidd, All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry and Josh Howard with whom to work when he arrived.
"That kind of came out of nowhere, but it's been a blessing for me to be in a situation where it's a different type of team from the teams I've coached," Carlisle said. "It's not a grind-it-out type of roster. It's a fast break, movement type of offense.
"It's been a very challenging year, especially when we started 2-7 in the West, but we've been able to hold it together and be in a position to advance. It's just been awesome."
To bad he did not do this when he was here.