INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Rick Carlisle chose the Indiana Pacers for many reasons.
He enjoyed his first two stints in Indianapolis, already had strong relationships with team owner Herb Simon and president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard and thought the roster was a good fit for his coaching style.
The Pacers appreciated something else — Carlisle's championship resume. On Wednesday, nearly a full week after Pritchard hired him, Carlisle mapped out his vision for the Pacers.
“This is my kind of team. As I look at the roster and as I’ve talked to all these guys, I have an even greater feeling that it’s a group of guys I will have a blast working with," he said. “I like the way they’re talking. We’re going to find a way to play better defense and we’ve got to get back to the playoffs and win in the playoffs."
For the 61-year-old Carlisle, it's essentially a homecoming.
Before spending 13 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, going 555-478 and winning the NBA championship in 2010-11, Carlisle had already made two stops in Indiana. First, he was Larry Bird's assistant coach during the most successful three-year run in franchise history. Then he returned in 2003 for four seasons as head coach, a tenure best remembered for a brawl during a game at Detroit and the ensuing suspensions that took the Pacers out of title contention.
Four times during those seven seasons, Carlisle helped the Pacers reach the Eastern Conference finals.
His new task is to finish what he started.
“We’re in a win-now mode, we’re trying to win and so we identified some traits or characteristics we wanted in a coach," Pritchard said. “Those characteristics were first of all multi-year experience, we really wanted to have someone who had a championship pedigree and that can be challenging to find all of them in one person. What happened in this year’s search is Rick became available.”
Pritchard's description is a stark contrast to search he conducted after firing Nate McMillan last August. Back then, the Pacers wanted a new-age thinker who valued relationships. Nate Bjorkgren got the job in October and was fired in early June after one tumultuous season.
Carlisle is the opposite — a proven winner who does his best work with veteran teams.