The Mavs announced Thursday that they’ve agreed to a contract extension with Rick Carlisle. Terms are the deal weren’t disclosed, but suffice it to say he’ll be here for a very, very long time, and that’s the way it should be.
“Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson, and Dirk Nowitzki are the reason an extension like this is possible,” Carlisle said in a statement. “I have best proprietor and general manager in sports, and one of the greatest players in NBA history to thank for this opportunity. There is much work to be done as we move forward.”
Countless people work for an organization, but there are four main people who really make the wheels turn, in no particular order. There’s the proprietor, the general manager, the superstar or franchise player, and the head coach. Since Carlisle took the Mavs head coaching job in 2008, those four positions have gone unchanged. During that time, the Mavericks have won a championship and missed the playoffs just once. And as the franchise’s all-time wins leader, Carlisle has a lot to do with it.
His 340-222 record (a .605 win percentage) as Mavs’ sideline boss, impressive as it is, still doesn’t do him justice. Carlisle is widely considered one of the best overall coaches in the game — the conversation usually starts with Gregg Popovich, but Carlisle is usually the second or third name mentioned — but he’s arguably unmatched as a pure tactician.
For example, his adjustment to insert J.J. Barea into the starting lineup in 2011 turned a 2-1 Dallas deficit into a 4-2 series win. He’s helped players considered “reclamation projects” — guys like Brandan Wright, Monta Ellis, and Al-Farouq Aminu — solidify their place in the league. He’s worked with veterans — Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, and even Nowitzki — to keep them on top of their game and extend their careers into their mid-to-late-30s.
Dallas has finished in the top-10 in offensive rating in six of Carlisle’s seven seasons. He’s one of just five active coaches with a championship, and he’s one of 11 people ever to win a title both as a player and a coach. It’s hard to argue against the results. He’s fourth among active coaches in wins, per Basketball-Reference, and one of just 24 coaches ever with at least 600 career victories.
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The only current coach who’s been with the same team for more seasons than Carlisle is Popovich, his counterpart in San Antonio, but it seems to be the Mavs front office’s goal to keep the coach in place for the long haul. Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson compared him to a coach with a tenure most of his peers could only envy.
“Rick is our Jerry Sloan,” Nelson said at exit interviews in the spring. Sloan coached the Jazz from 1988-2011. “I think he’s one of the top coaches in the league — if not the top coach,” he continued. “We’re blessed and lucky to have him. He can be in Dallas as long as he wants to be.”
“I love it here,” Carlisle added that day. “This has been a great opportunity. Because of Mark Cuban and Donnie and Dirk and Kidd and (Tyson) Chandler, I’m a championship coach. That doesn’t happen at just anywhere you go. I appreciate that sentiment.”
So now that this deal is done, Carlisle can move forward and look to raise another banner with the Mavericks in the near future. And he can take on that project with the comfort of knowing that the front office is clearly behind him, giving him the respect and affording him the security he deserves.