Rick Carlisle stepped down as coach of the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, the second major departure for that franchise in as many days.
Carlisle spent 13 seasons in Dallas, leading the Mavericks to the 2011 NBA title. His decision was announced one day after general manager Donnie Nelson and the team agreed to part ways, ending a 24-year run for Nelson as part of the organization.
“This was solely my decision,” Carlisle said in a statement released to ESPN shortly before the team announced that he was leaving.
Dallas becomes the seventh team with an coaching vacancy, joining New Orleans, Washington, Orlando, Indiana, Portland — and Boston, where Carlisle played for the team that won the 1986 NBA title.
And now the Mavericks need a coach and a GM, in an offseason where they’re also expected to offer 22-year-old Luka Doncic, the team’s best player and now a two-time All-NBA performer, a $201 million extension.
Carlisle went 555-478 in Dallas, taking a team built around Dirk Nowitzki to the title in 2011 — the first, and still only, in Mavs’ history. Dallas made six playoff appearances in the 10 seasons that followed, never getting out of the first round in any of them.
But Dallas owner Mark Cuban insisted after this year’s playoff run ended — the Mavs went 0-3 at home in what became a seven-game first-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers — that Carlisle was safe and would be back.
Carlisle, apparently, had other ideas. Carlisle told ESPN that he had “a number of in-person conversations” with Cuban in recent days, then came to the decision that it was time to go.
“Rick informed me today about his decision to step down as head coach,” Cuban said. “On top of being a tremendous basketball coach, he was also a friend and a confidant. Rick helped us bring the O’Brien Trophy to Dallas and those are memories I will always cherish.”
There was at least one indicator that the decisions involving Carlisle and Nelson were not in the works for any lengthy period of time: The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that they were scheduled to be part of a Mavs' contingent that was planning to fly to Slovenia this weekend to visit with Doncic, who is planning to be part of Slovenia's national team in an Olympic qualifying tournament that starts later this month.
Carlisle — who serves as president of the National Basketball Coaches Association — is the winningest coach in franchise history and had the third-longest tenure of any NBA coach in his current job. San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich became coach there in 1996; Miami’s Erik Spoelstra was promoted to head coach by the Heat about two weeks before Carlisle got the job in Dallas.
The third-longest tenured coach in the league now is Golden State’s Steve Kerr — who was sixth on that list about two weeks ago, before Terry Stotts left Portland, Brad Stevens left as coach in Boston to become the Celtics’ president, and Carlisle departed Dallas.
Carlisle, in his statement to ESPN, clearly suggested that his coaching days are not done.
“Dallas will always be home, but I am excited about the next chapter of my coaching career," Carlisle said.
Carlisle was the 2002 NBA coach of the year, grabbing that honor in his first season as a head coach. He went 50-32 with Detroit that season, spending two years with the Pistons, and then moved into a four-year stint with Indiana before eventually coming to Dallas.
In a 19-year career, he has 836 wins — 15th-most in NBA history and third among active coaches behind Popovich and Philadelphia's Doc Rivers. Carlisle is also one of only 14 individuals to win an NBA championship as both a player and a head coach.
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