As the Miami Heat continue their quest for a third straight title, more and more attention is being paid to the 2011 Mavericks. Should Miami defeat San Antonio in this year’s Finals, the Mavs will still be the only team in history to beat the mighty Heat in a playoff series — that could earn the ’11 champions legendary status depending on what happens in the near future.

The Mavs did it with Dirk, Kidd, JET, Tyson, ‘Trix, and a whole group of determined veterans that would do whatever it took to win a game, series, or title. We talk a lot about how important players are when it comes to achieving success in the NBA. It’s a players’ league, after all. But the success of that championship team — and three teams this season — might make you appreciate the role coaches play just a bit more.

The 2010-11 Mavericks were coached by Rick Carlisle, the third longest-tenured coach in the league. Much like his players that season, Carlisle’s top two assistants had very specific duties: Dwane Casey handled the defense and Terry Stotts the offense. Both have since taken head jobs with the Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers, respectively. All three coaches led their teams to the playoffs this season, and while only Stotts won a series, both Carlisle and Casey led their teams to a seventh game in the first round.

Carlisle’s Coaching Tree

2013-14 Record Team PPG Team Off/Def Rtg CotY Voting Results
Rick Carlisle
49-33 (8th in West) 104.8 (Off) — 8th 111.2 (Off) — 3rd
Terry Stotts
54-28 (5th in West) 106.7 (Off) — 4th 111.5 (Off) — 2nd 5th
Dwane Casey
48-34 (3rd in East) 98.0 (Def) — 7th 105.3 (Def) — 10th 6th

Judging by a breakdown of their teams’ impressive performances this season, you couldn’t tell which man was the head coach of those 2011 champions. All performed excellently this season. But it’s also just a bit easier to realize yet another reason why Dallas was so successful that season against the juggernaut Heat. Casey and Stotts both finished top-10 in Coach of the Year voting this season, while Carlisle finished on the outside looking in. Many media consider Carlisle one of the best two or three coaches in the game, which would make his lack of recognition this season seem like some sort of slight. But you can bet that Carlisle isn’t worried about recognition.

As the head of the Coaches Association, Carlisle is concerned with the general well-being of coaches across the league. The more successful coaches there are, the better. Only seven current NBA coaches are at the helm of the same team they led when the Mavericks won the title just three years ago. There were 12 coaching changes last summer alone, and nine of the dozen hired made their head coaching debut this past fall.

Carlisle said early in the season that when one group of tenured coaches leaves the game, there’s generally a period of upheaval. For example, in recent years George Karl, Jerry Sloan, and Phil Jackson have all left coaching entirely, while long-tenured coaches like Vinny Del Negro, Lionel Hollins, and Stan Van Gundy have parted ways with their respective teams as well. (The Detroit Pistons recently hired Van Gundy to coach the team.)

“These guys were at the very top of the profession,” Carlisle said during the preseason. “When you get a bunch of those guys that step away, there’s going to be a little more instability.”

What Carlisle means is that there have been plenty of vacant positions, which means the next crop of coaches — including Casey and Stotts, for example — got its turn all at once. And as the head of the Coaches Association, Carlisle obviously wants all of those new coaches to do well. As Mavs fans have grown to learn during the six seasons Carlisle has manned the sidelines, consistency at the head coach position generally means consistent improvement on the floor.

That’s why Carlisle won’t mind that he didn’t gain any Coach of the Year recognition this season, despite his team arguably outperforming expectations to a higher degree than any other NBA team, with the exception of the Phoenix Suns and maybe Casey’s Raptors.

The Mavs’ title team had Dirk, JET, Kidd, Tyson, and ‘Trix on the floor, and Carlisle, Casey, and Stotts off of it — three coaches of some of the best teams in the NBA. The Spurs might very well defeat the Heat in this year’s Finals, which might to a degree lessen the historical impact of that magical 2011 team. But while a San Antonio victory could affect the legacy of that one team, the 2011 Mavs will still stand the test of time should Carlisle, Casey, and Stotts all continue to coach at the highest level with their respective teams.

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