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Bird thinks Carlisle's first title won't be last

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 16, 2011

Larry Bird isn't surprised Rick Carlisle coached the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA championship. In fact, he expects his former teammate, co-worker and friend of nearly 30 years isn't done racking up rings.

"Rick puts a lot of time into it and he's very dedicated to the sport but he had a team that was perfect for him," said Bird. "He likes to get ball movement, he likes guys that play hard and I'm not surprised they won. I think Rick's got a future where he's going to win a few more."

Bird and Carlisle became friends when the younger player joined the Boston Celtics in 1984, winning one championship together.

When Bird was hired to coach the Pacers in 1997, he hired Carlisle as one of his two assistant coaches (along with Dick Harter). With Carlisle serving as de facto offensive coordinator, the team won nearly 70 percent of its games in three seasons and reached the NBA Finals in 2000.

When Bird stepped into the team's front office in 2003, one of his first moves was to hire Carlisle to replace Isiah Thomas as head coach and the Pacers responded with a franchise-record 61 victories and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The talented but volatile team soon combusted, however, and Carlisle left the Pacers after a 35-47 record in 2006-07 -- the only losing record, and only non-playoff season, in his tenure as a head coach with the Pistons, Pacers and Mavericks.

Bird has no regrets about the decision to part ways with Carlisle.

"Not really. It was time to move on," he said. "Me and Rick have been friends for a long time and he was ready to go. I'm very happy for him. Hopefully we can get this team better and maybe he'll want to come back someday."

With Dallas, Carlisle had a team that meshed perfectly with his temperament and coaching emphasis. He had solid, proven veterans willing to subvert their egos in the quest for a championship. He had a legitimate superstar in Dirk Nowitzki. And he had a deep roster that afforded him the matchup flexibility he manages so well.

"They've got a lot of talent and they've got some older guys. I don't think their locker room was a problem out there," Bird said. "I think they were all dedicated to get as far as they possibly could and giving themselves an opportunity to win a championship. They got in position to do it and they took advantage of it.

"I thought Miami played very well. They did a good job this year to give themselves an opportunity to win a championship but it was just Dallas' ball movement, Rick made some changes and the guys stepped up and it really helped them down the stretch. He puts (J.J.) Barea in the game and changes tempo and then Jason Terry gets hot and of course Dirk's Dirk. Even when Dirk wasn't shooting the ball well his teammates kept them in the game."

Pacers to work out Faried, Vucevic on Friday

The final schedule pre-draft workout Friday features Morehead State power forward Kenneth Faried and USC center Nikola Vucevic, both projected as mid-to-late first-round prospects by various mock drafts.

A 6-7, 225-pound power forward who has drawn comparisons to Dennis Rodman for his prolific rebounding and overall tenacity, Faried set the NCAA modern-era record with 1,643 career rebounds, averaging 12.3 overall and 14.5 last season (to go with 17.3 points), leading his No. 13 seeded team to a stunning upset of No. 4 Louisville in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Vucevic is a 6-11, 260-pound native of Montenegro who has been climbing in the mock drafts on the strength of strong workout performances. He averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds last season at Southern California.

Other participants scheduled are combo guards Andrew Goudelock (College of Charleston), Diante Garrett (Iowa State) and Charles Jenkins (Hofstra) and post prospect Trey Tompkins of Georgia.