The Indiana Pacers will hire Rick Carlisle as their next coach on a four-year, $29 million deal, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon on Thursday. Carlisle recently stepped down as coach of the Dallas Mavericks after being in charge for 13 seasons with the franchise and helping lead the team to its only championship.
The Pacers have found the veteran coach they were looking for after firing Nate Bjorkgren after just one season into his contract. Indiana is already built to make the playoffs next season, and with Carlisle at the helm, it'll have a chance to make a deeper run than the past two seasons.
"It's a team of skilled, unselfish guys that play hard," Carlisle said, via ESPN. "It's always possible that moves could be made before the season, but I think [GM Kevin Pritchard] and I are both very excited about getting the roster healthy and seeing what this team can be."
Carlisle will return to Indiana after coaching the Pacers from 2003-2007, where he made the postseason three times and made it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2004. He'll be inheriting a roster that should be fully healthy at the start of next season, after key players like TJ Warren, Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon all missed chunks of time over the course of the season due to injuries.
If there's one major sticking point that's been holding this Pacers team back for the past couple seasons it would be injuries. On paper, this roster is talented enough to be competitive in the postseason, but the lack of chemistry due to those injuries stunted this team's development. If the Pacers can remain healthy, they should have a bounce-back 2021-22 season with Carlisle in control.
This is a great hire for Indiana, as Carlisle is considered one of the best coaches in the league, which is why he was retained in Dallas for so long. It wasn't until recently that his status with the Mavericks was on the rocks after a first-round playoff exit to the Los Angeles Clippers. When Carlisle stepped down, it was after longtime Mavs general manager Donnie Nelson was fired, and after an explosive report that detailed the turmoil within the Mavericks organization. If Carlisle returned in Dallas next season, he would've reportedly been on the hot seat as Dallas tries to build a championship contender around franchise cornerstone Luka Doncic.
Yes, it's true that Carlisle was unable to coach the Mavericks to a single playoff series win since hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy in 2011. However, that was more about the product on the court rather than Carlisle's coaching abilities. On numerous occasions, Carlisle coached unlikely Mavericks teams to the postseason, turning dust into diamonds year after year. He's also one of -- if not, the best -- coach in the league at making adjustments on the fly. During Dallas' first-round series against the Clippers, he combatted L.A.'s small-ball approach by throwing in 7-4 center Boban Marjanovic into the starting lineup. In the first game he tried it, Dallas won and had a 3-2 series lead over L.A. However, Dallas was ultimately unable to keep up with the Clippers from a talent standpoint and fell apart in the last two games.
But in Indiana, Carlisle will have perhaps the most depth he's had on a team in quite some time with All-Star Domantas Sabonis, Turner, Brogdon, Warren and Caris LeVert, the latter of whom the team acquired in the three-team trade that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets this season.
After a tumultuous season in Indiana with Bjorkgren, the Pacers have a more established coach in Carlisle who brings championship experience and a winning pedigree.