Rick Carlisle: Disposition and Poise
Bryan Gutierrez reports from Dallas on Rick Carlisle's approach during a season that has presented many speed bumps for the Dallas Mavericks.
Rick Carlisle: Disposition and PoiseDALLAS — “You can’t overreact to a couple of games where the numbers are down. It’s a long season. You’ve just got to keep staying the course and being consistent with the approach.” – Rick Carlisle
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was discussing O.J. Mayo’s recent shooting slump in the quote mentioned above. However, Carlisle’s comment easily could have been the approach to the whole season. In a season where massive overhauls have been made and having to go through it without the luxury of your star player, Carlisle has remained steadfast in his approach. In his fifth season as the head coach for the Mavericks, there have been times this season where things simply just haven't worked or clicked for Dallas. Carlisle understood that the struggles were going to be there. He had “no delusions” that it was going to be an easy process for the Mavericks this year. It is exactly that: a process. “The reality was that this was going to be a challenging endeavor,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got the stomach for it. We’re going to stick with it.”
You have to be sure and notice how Carlisle phrases things. There is a plan or a rhyme or reason for everything. The Mavericks had a plan during the 2010-11 season and everything worked according to that plan. There were changes that had to be made along the way, but Carlisle stuck to his main principles and the success came. He had the true pulse of his team and knew when the time was right to make necessary changes in order to succeed. While things haven’t gone to plan this year, Carlisle remains positive and avoids bringing a negative tone towards his team. “You have to,” Carlisle said in regards to being positive. “You could just sit around and mope about it, but the outlook’s not going to get much better. I think it’s important to have the right sort of make it better type approach and see the good in the guys that you have. There’s a lot to be said about for keeping a high amount of energy in the game, keeping the ball movement there. Those kinds of things have intrinsic, really good affects on a team. We’re working toward getting healthy which is going to be big for us. With the guys we’ve got, we’ve got to make it work.”
The Mavericks are just doing everything possible to remain above water while Dirk Nowitzki is trying to return to the team after having his right knee surgically repaired. I think if you told most fans or analysts that the Mavericks would hover around .500 without Dirk most would say that’s a great job. The roster has its flaws, but Carlisle is a coach who can adapt to any situation. Owner Mark Cuban understands what makes Carlisle so successful in these types of situations. “I think he uses all the resources around him. He doesn’t try to do hero coaching,” Cuban said to Mavs.com. “He really pays attention to what facilities, resources and tools are available to him and he puts them to work. Anything that he can do to put the team in a position to succeed he doesn’t hesitate. I think that’s always a great trait for a coach.
“I don’t think he shies from any challenge. He knows we have a lot to accomplish and a long way to go this year. He’s a great teaching coach and that plays to his strength.”
Again, their record might not be amongst the best in the league, but Dallas’ performances have gotten the attention of former assistant coaches when they came into town. The Portland Trail Blazers, who are now coached by Terry Stotts, came to Dallas on 11/5 and suffered a 114-91 loss to Dallas. Stotts was an assistant with Dallas from 2008-12 and was with the Mavericks during their championship run in 2011. After being an assistant for the team, he firmly understands what the Mavericks are going through right now. “They’re a different team without Dirk out there,” Stotts said. “Still, Rick is a great coach and he doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. He has done this before. He did it in Indiana and you never count him out. He always has his teams playing hard and you can never count his teams out. He has the right players that fit his style of play and it’s kind of a faster grinding team than normal.”
The Toronto Raptors, who are now coached by Dwane Casey, came to Dallas the very next game on 11/7 and suffered a 109-104 loss to the Mavericks. Casey was an assistant with Dallas from 2008-11 and was on staff when the Mavericks won the 2011 NBA championship. Like Stotts, Casey had high praise for Carlisle. “As usual, Rick’s doing a hell of a job with this group with bailing wire,” Casey said. “Coach Carlisle did it again. He’s got the boys competing every minute.”
That is a lot of high praise from parts of Carlisle’s coaching tree, but Carlisle doesn’t let it go to his head. He remains accountable for when situations just aren’t working. He’ll take accountability for actions even if he really doesn’t need to. He’s a coach who will jump on the grenade to protect his players. He’ll shoulder the blame for losses and say it’s on him to fix things. "When players struggle, it’s on the coach. I don’t dodge that responsibility,” Carlisle said after a recent loss. You just don’t always hear stuff like that anymore from coaches.
In a league where the season can turn into a marathon, Carlisle knows he is in a challenging situation. Again, he knew this was going to be work. He also firmly believes that this team, like his previous teams, can be successful. The thing that makes it easy for the coach is the fact he expects the same thing, no matter what the situation is. “In this league, there are going to be challenges every night. Even when you’re winning a lot, there are other kinds of challenges to keep everybody playing with an edge, keep everybody focused and stuff like that. It never stops,” Carlisle said to Mavs.com. “When you get into some dire situations with injuries and so on and so forth it’s no different. It’s just that they’re more pronounced and people want to talk about them more because they’re obvious. There are challenges every single day walking in here.”
Despite the challenges, Carlisle will tell you that it isn’t rocket science. He just wants everyone to come together and he’ll bring a simple approach that they can do, do hard and do it together. Above anything else, he wants hard and efficient play. He wants his team to play with maximum effort. If you get tired, let him know and he’ll get a sub in for you. It’s a game where it comes down to who can put the ball in the basket the most, but the shot-making can come and go. He’s continuing to stress the point that it’s more about the all-around game. Carlisle is trying to enforce the point that when the shot-making fails, the rebounding and defensive principles must be intact.
“That’s one reason this job is a challenging job,” said as he was leaving. “That’s one reason why it pays good money. You’ve got to expect it. It’s not going to be easy.” It’s work. It’s work that Carlisle is willing to do.