Does Carlisle's success haunt Pacers' Bird?

June 10, 2011
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If you’re an Indiana Pacers fan, it’s ironic and perhaps a little sad that while your team is looking for a coach, one of its former coaches is on the precipice of bringing Dallas its first NBA title.

And Rick Carlisle isn’t just a puppet sitting on the end of the bench while a cast of all-stars wins the title. He is being lauded for his moves in games four and five that helped Dallas beat a more talented Miami team. Some reporters are suggesting that he is far outcoaching Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

You have to wonder if Pacers player personnel boss Larry Bird is haunted by his decision to fire Carlisle following the 2006-07 season.

It must be especially painful for Bird, who often sides with his head coach over whining players, that Carlisle perhaps left before he was able to bring Indiana the title that is now within Dallas’ grasp. Bird is the same guy who held onto Jim O’Brien way too long because he didn’t want to cave to players’ demands to jettison the head coach.

It was the complaints from players that Carlisle’s style of play was too restrictive that in part led to his departure from Indiana.

It was a painful decision for Bird to part with Carlisle, who he was especially close to and had been friends with since their playing days together in Boston.

For those with short memories, Carlisle was an assistant coach when Bird was the Pacers head coach. Even then, Carlisle got lots of credit for the Pacers run to the 2000 NBA finals.

Bird then hired Carlisle to replace Isiah Thomas for the 2003-04 season as head coach. In his first season Carlisle led the Pacers to the Central Division title and the NBA’s best regular-season record at 61-21. They lost to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. In that year he was nominated coach for the All-Star Game.

In 2005, the Pacers roster was decimated by injuries and suspensions. Carlisle still was able to rally the Pacers to the NBA playoffs that season. As the sixth seed, they again defeated Boston in the first round, before again losing to the eventual Eastern Conference champion, the Pistons.

After the Pacers finished the 2006-07 season with a 35-47 record (missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997), Carlisle's tenure as head coach ended. In four seasons with the Indiana Pacers, Carlisle compiled a 181-147 record.

At the time of Carlisle’s departure from Indiana, there was lots of talk about the players not listening to him any more. It was a similar refrain to the one heard often by Pacers brass and fans during the last two seasons under O’Brien.

Bird eventually fired O’Brien. And it appears to have been the right move, as the team picked up steam after he left.

But Carlisle’s departure? These days that doesn’t look like one of Bird’s best decisions.

Upon his termination, Carlisle said he understood it was time for the Pacers to hear a “new voice.”

Now Pacers fans and brass are left wondering where that voice will come from.

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  • Other factors
    I know here in Mayberry, it's all about us, but let's not forget that we don't have a Dirk Nowitski either. That might be a small factor as well.
  • Hey city slicker
    Hey big city feller, Until Carlisle got there, Dirk didn't win diddly poo squat as near as I can tell. And he may not win anything this year. But he's a bit closer with Carlisle as coach than he's ever been. Well, I gotta get back to my girl, Thelma now. Be cool, yo.
  • Get off your butt and find some news to write a real story about
    What purpose does this blog serve? Are you just trying to get the readers angry, which seems to be your specialty by the way. Carlisle's tenure in Indy is ancient history. Most people are excited about Frank Vogel and the way the Pacers ended the season. Suggesting that the Pacers would be a different team if they still had Carlisle is beyond laughable. The Pacers primarily are a team of very young, unproven players that have long careers ahead of them. Meanwhile, the Mavericks have future hall of famers in Dirk and Kidd along with former all stars such as Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion. The Pacers never had an elite roster like this even during their best years.
    I hope your next blog is another apology but this time you are saying sorry for making the readers waste 90 seconds of their time to read this article which had no value whatsoever.
  • Larry Bird Decisions
    Larry Bird's poor decsisions far outway his good decisions and if history repeats itself his selection in this years NBA draft will continue to be a fiasco. Why hasn't he filled the void in the coaching position? Simple, he wants to control the draft without anyone interfering or having an opportunity to give advice. It's obvious that larry has hearing problems. Case in point, Jim O'Brien. Not only was he reluctant to fire him, he was the one that hired him!
    Frank Vogel seems to be a great guy but the Pacers should not be in a hurry to sign him to a long term contract because he had a handful of good games after O'Brien was fired. Anyone who has any basketball intelligence could have looked good after O'Brien!Indiana University rushed to replace Bob Knight with Mike Davis who happened to be on the bench at the time. He took the same players and looked great for a period of time and then the bottom fell out and the rest is history. This is a business and as a business you owe it to the fans to get the best coach out there. Larry fired Rick Carlisle and now will hire Frank Vogel? PLEASE! Follow the path of Indiana University when Kelvin Sampson was fired and then fired the A.D. Bird should have been replaced after O'Brien. This is Indiana, the center of everything basketball and the fans deserve better!
  • Re:
    Forget the Pacers
    The Mavs are now America's Team!
  • Carlisle vs Vogel
    No offense to Frank, but Carlisle vs Vogel, a guy with a championship ring and loads of experience vs a guy with almost no experience as a head coach. Seems like a no brainer and it has to hurt Bird a little more because he supposedly is a coaches' GM. Firing Carlisle was just another in a string of bad decisions by Larry Legend in his front office role with the Pacers.

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