Carlisle good fit as new Pacers coach


Good hire. Good move.

The Indiana Pacers made the right choice selecting Rick Carlisle to be the team’s next coach. Carlisle’s savvy on the bench, long experience in the NBA, and combined with his past experience in Indiana should pay off.

Carlisle did not figure to be on the market this off-season after the Pacers decided one-year coach Nate Bjorkgren, who proved to be a failed experiment, was not the right guy for the job.

This was a roster built to win now and the Pacers didn’t. It was not Bjorkgren’s fault the squad was beset with injuries and illness, but what was mostly hidden, but still whispered about within the team was dissent in the locker room.

Unhappiness and losing make for a fatal pro sports coupling and while you always hate to see teams give up on a leader after just one season, no one can really fault Kevin Pritchard, president of basketball operations, for sending Bjorkgren into exile.

Rewinding the clock to the pandemic, in-the-bubble season wrap-up of 2020, the Pacers had hoped to make more of an impact during the get-well portion of the season. When they didn’t, Pritchard fired coach Nate McMillan.

There was reluctance and regret in his voice when Pritchard pulled the trigger in taking that action because the Pacers lost in the first round of the playoffs. Pritchard thought Bjorkgren would be a fresh face with new ideas. Apparently, though, they were bad new ideas.

Meanwhile, McMillan, a well-respected veteran, landed as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks and when that team shuffled head man Lloyd Pierce over the horizon, it gave the reins to McMillan. Now the Hawks are in the Eastern Conference Finals, it is almost the Fourth of July and McMillan is still coaching as much of America heads to the beach.

It was generally believed Carlisle had the equivalent of lifetime tenure in Dallas, where he was the head guy for 13 years and won an NBA crown. But he and management “mutually” agreed to his departure after the team X-ed long-time executive Donnie Nelson.

Suddenly, Carlisle was a free-agent coach with about a quarter of the NBA looking for a new coach. It was not a bad time to be available. Early talk had Carlisle landing with the Boston Celtics.

Long ago (and you have to be old to remember this), Carlisle, now 61, had a short-lived playing career which involved short-lived minutes on the floor, with Boston. Carlisle spent five seasons in the league, starting in 1984, and his career scoring average was 2.2 points per game, That included time with the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets and an entire year out with a shoulder injury.

This is the second time around for Carlisle coaching the Pacers. He led the team four season between 2003 and 2007, going 181-147 making the playoffs three times. Fans need a good memory to recall those days, too.

Carlisle was unemployed for a week between the lapse of his allegiance to the Mavericks and his allegiance to the Pacers began anew. His stature between stints has grown, and presumably his paycheck, reportedly four years for $29 million. Carlisle’s resume now has 836 victories on it.

Carlisle said he and Pritchard talked considerably about the roster and by inking his name it seems Carlisle is satisfied with the basic talent level — as long players can stay in one piece.

Domantas Sabonis emerged as an an all-star, Malcolm Brogdon is knocking on the door. T.J. Warren was a revelation scoring in the bubble, but was sidelined almost all of 2021. Myles Turner, Caris LeVert and Jeremy Lamb must all get back to full strength. The Holidays, Aaron and Justin, are dangerous scorers. And then there is Oshae Brissett, who transformed from a who’s-he on 10-day contracts to a starter taking advantage of playing time due to others’ injuries.

{span}”I like their roster,” Carlisle said before he began getting used to saying “we.” “It’s a team of skilled, unselfish guys that play hard. It’s always possible that moves could be made before the season, but I think Kevin and I are both very excited about getting the roster healthy and seeing what this team can be.”{/span}

Kevin, Carlisle and the fans.

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