Don’t let the fact that he’s Jim Carrey’s doppelganger fool you; Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is no dope. The president of the NBA Coaches Association, Carlisle is perhaps the most well-respected coach in the league. A highly skilled pianist and single-engine plane pilot, Carlisle is smarter than your average ball coach. But, in spite of that, considering that the Mavs are currently 3-13 and at the bottom of the NBA standings, shouldn’t Carlisle be on the hot seat?
After winning the title in 2011, the Mavericks have largely been disappointing, failing to win a single playoff series since then. Yet, Carlisle has never been mentioned in hot seat discussions. Sure, the magical run to the championship in 2011 was an impressive coaching job on Carlisle’s part, but there have been several coaches fired for far less disappointing post-championship stretches.
It would be different if the Mavs were engaged in rebuilding mode. But they’re definitely not. Veteran Dirk Nowitzki has mulled around leaving Dallas for greener pastures for the past few offseasons but has hung around, desperate for a second title with the Mavericks. If he hadn’t have won it all in 2011, Dirk may have already been compelled to leave, as the desperation for a ring might be too much to bear. However, Dirk is still in Dallas, and his supporting cast isn’t too shabby.
After adding reliable center Andrew Bogut and budding superstar small forward Harrison Barnes in the offseason, the veteran-laden Mavericks were expected to be in the mix in the Western Conference this season. Led by Nowitzki, point guard Deron Williams and shooting guard Wesley Matthews, the Mavs were considered a surefire contender. But they haven’t been. At all.
What went wrong? Why is the Mavericks’ defense drastically worse than it was last year? Why does Dallas look completely lost at times? One would figure that those mysteries could be solved by merely blaming the head coach. That’s typically how it works in the sports world. If a team is shockingly worse than expected, the head coach is usually blamed and possibly fired. So why is heavily involved owner Mark Cuban letting this continue without so much as a public critique of the coaching staff?
Maybe Cuban (as ludicrous as this seems) is too nice. Cuban has gained a reputation over the years of bonding maybe a little too closely for his own good with Mavs players and coaches. Owners typically keep a reasonable distance from the team, but Cuban has always been right there in the middle of everything. Considering that Carlisle is such a great, well-respected man and coach, maybe Cuban simply doesn’t have the heart to fire him.
But Carlisle should definitely be on the hot seat, although his contract runs through the 2021-2022 season. That deal, which was awarded to Carlisle at the start of last season, seemed somewhat irrational at the time of its signing and seems even more irrational now. The Mavs’ championship window is nearly shut because once Dirk either retires or takes his talents elsewhere in the NBA, the rebuilding period will begin in full force for Dallas.
Sometimes, coaches need a change of scenery to rejuvenate their coaching skills, and that appears like it just might be the case with Carlisle. So Cuban should seriously consider whether or not it’s worth continuing to reward Carlisle for coaching a disappointing Mavericks team because the Dirk Nowitzki Era in Dallas is in its twilight years, and this definitely isn’t the rightful way for it to conclude.