IRVING, Texas -- Not every head coach is equipped with the patience level to co-exist long term with an owner who practically sits on the team bench during most games, chronically chastises referees and talks to his players on the periphery of the timeout huddle.
(See Don Nelson, Avery Johnson).
Rick Carlisle, however, seemed to come to Dallas in May 2008 not only prepared for it, but eager to embrace owner Mark Cuban's intense and unorthodox style of watching his team play. Carlisle probably figured Cuban isn't going to change so it'd behoove him to work with it instead of against it. And it's probably one big reason why Carlisle, 52, agreed to a new four-year contract Tuesday that next season will push him past Nelson as the longest-tenured coach under Cuban's watch.
There are other reasons why Carlisle wanted to remain in Dallas when other lucrative coaching opportunities would quickly have presented themselves. At the top of the list is that Carlisle trusts the track record of Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. He believes they will always provide the resources to compete, or at least aggressively pursue those resources -- a belief that will be put to the test during this offseason of potentially unprecedented roster turnover.
"I can’t think of another owner and GM that has been able to reinvent a franchise more times in a short period of time than Mark and Donnie (Nelson)," Carlisle said, noting how the duo acquired Jason Terry and Devin Harris after losing Steve Nash to Phoenix in free agency. "We’re at a point now where we’re going to make some things happen. I see things happening in a variety of different ways. I don’t see it being only free agency or only being trades or only being the draft. I think we’re going to be very active with all three modes of getting a team better."
As inventive as the front office has been through the years, Carlisle has proved equally adept on the bench as an in-game tactician and making himself flexible and open-minded enough to capture veteran egos. This season's disappointing 36-30 record, the first in a dozen seasons in which the Mavs did not finish with a .600 winning percentage (the equivalent of 50 wins), came under the most unusual of circumstances given the NBA lockout, the dismantling of the title team, the short training camp, injuries and the Lamar Odom saga to name a few.
As the offseason beckons with cap space to burn for the first time in Cuban's tenure, Carlisle said he and his staff will be active the next month scouring every position on every team to identify potential trade targets. But, Carlisle acknowledged, the architects of the next Mavs team will predominantly be Cuban and Nelson.
"We all kind of place our eggs in their basket knowing that they’re going to do the work, they have the resources, but this is going to be work," Carlisle said. "We’re going to have to do a lot of homework. We’re going to have to be opportunistic and resourceful and we’ve got the greatest fans in the NBA and we want to put the best team on the floor we can for them."