The Dallas Mavericks and Rick Carlisle reached a verbal agreement on a four-year coaching contract Friday night that seals his hiring as Avery Johnson’s successor.
Although a news conference to introduce Carlisle as the Mavericks’ new coach won’t happen until Wednesday, Carlisle and the Mavs ended two days of slow-moving negotiations late Friday by coming to terms on a four-year contract.
The guaranteed deal is worth $17.5 million and is expected to be signed at 2:30 ET on Saturday, according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban confirmed the deal in an e-mail to ESPN.com.
“Incredibly excited that Rick has come on board,” Cuban said on the team’s Web site. “His coaching record speaks for itself. He has a unique ability to coach multiple styles of play, which we think makes him a great fit for the Mavs.”
Carlisle arrived in Dallas on Thursday with his family, as both he and the Mavericks were anticipating a Friday news conference after sorting out the final details face-to-face. Carlisle was joined in town by the two former NBA head coaches — Dwane Casey and Terry Stotts — who will be hired as assistants on his new staff.
The deal was realistically never going to collapse once things got that serious, but it did appear that the sides would go into the weekend with no agreement — and some tangible frustration — when an accord was reached shortly before 11 p.m. ET on Friday.
Reached by the AP late Friday, Carlisle said: “Whatever Mark told you is what’s going on. I’m not going to make any comments about it right now.”
Carlisle was the first and only candidate to interview for the vacancy after Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson turned down Cuban’s invitation to move to the bench.
After a sitdown in Indianapolis last Thursday with Nelson, Carlisle flew into Dallas for face-to-face meetings with Cuban and an introductory meeting with star forward Dirk Nowitzki.
It quickly became clear Carlisle was the only serious contender for the job, with Dallas electing not to take advantage of Mike D’Antoni’s sudden availability by following Chicago and New York’s lead and requesting an interview with the Suns coach.
Johnson was fired April 30, mere hours after Dallas suffered its second straight first-round exit. ESPN.com reported after the Mavericks’ Game 5 loss in New Orleans that Cuban considered dismissing Johnson before the playoffs began, specifically after Cuban and Johnson engaged in a heated argument following a March 18 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although Cuban wanted Nelson to take over, in part because of Nelson’s longstanding relationships with Jason Kidd and Nowitzki — an especially close one with the German after Nelson engineered the draft-day trade in 1998 that landed Nowitzki in Dallas — Nelson reiterated his long-held stance that he didn’t want to leave his personnel post to go back to coaching.
“I think there’s better candidates out there,” Nelson insisted.
That belief quickly led Dallas to Carlisle, who attended the same Massachusetts prep school as Nelson some 30 years ago.
Carlisle and his new employers will now inevitably face questions about Carlisle’s past personality clashes in Detroit and Indianapolis and a coaching style that will be likened to the conservative, controlling Johnson.
But Carlisle, 48, would also appear to offer the best blend of offensive and defensive pedigree after posting a record of 281-211 (.571) in stints with the Pistons and Pacers. Mavericks management and Nowitzki have spoken loudly of the need for better balance since the season ended.
Carlisle knows a big part of his job will be making better use of Kidd, after Johnson sealed his dismissal with what was widely perceived as misuse of Kidd. There is considerable skepticism about how Carlisle and Kidd will mesh as well, since Carlisle has never been known as an up-tempo coach. The Mavs, though, regard it as a positive sign that Carlisle spent a few days at Suns training camp in October as an observer, studying D’Antoni’s system in an attempt to broaden his playbook.
Carlisle also served as an offensive coordinator of sorts for Larry Bird with the Pacers during Bird’s three-season stint as Pacers coach from 1997-98 through 1999-2000, which included a trip to the 2000 NBA Finals. Carlisle won NBA Coach of the Year honors in his first season in Detroit in 2001-02.
He posted consecutive 50-32 records before the Pistons replaced him with Larry Brown. He then moved to the Pacers and went 61-21 in his first season before losing in the conference finals to Brown during Detroit’s 2004 championship run. Carlisle guided the Pacers to two more playoff bids despite seemingly constant off-court turmoil and injury which followed Indiana’s infamous brawl in Detroit in November 2004.
Although he interviewed recently with the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks before talking to Dallas, Carlisle was not a finalist for either job. He’ll soon be introduced as the first coaching hire of the Cuban era that didn’t have a prior working relationship with the Mavs’ boss.
For all his perceived volatility, Cuban had never fired a coach before dismissing Johnson, whose relationship with the owner and ability to reach Dallas’ players gradually deteriorated after their NBA Finals appearance in 2006.
Cuban inherited Don Nelson as a coach when he assumed ownership control of the Mavs in January 2000 and ultimately gave Nelson two contract extensions after they hit it off in those first few months together. Cuban then targeted Johnson as Nelson’s replacement when he was still a player and assistant coach, repeatedly observing Johnson’s ability to lead and motivate from his daily seat in close proximity to the Dallas bench. Don Nelson, furthermore, asked out more than he was pushed out in March 2005.