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Monday, February 18, 2013
The cold, hard truth: Rick Carlisle is not nice

By Tim MacMahon

DALLAS -- It’s hard work to be a jerk.

So Rick Carlisle needed the All-Star break as much as anybody. The long weekend of rest and relaxation with his family should recharge Carlisle’s batteries enough to maintain his maniacal intensity for the rest of the season despite the Dallas Mavericks’ dim playoff hopes.

And don’t think that calling Carlisle a jerk is an insult. It’s kind of a badge of honor. In fact, he’s fine with using a much cruder term to describe himself as someone with an unpleasant disposition.

“I tell guys all the time that I may be an a------, but I’m not a bulls----er,” Carlisle said. “I tell them the truth.”

That truth has often been told at a high-decibel level with Carlisle delivering the message from uncomfortably close range. He readily admits that he has had to be a bigger, um, jerk this season than any other year during his coaching career.

That’s not just because of the results for the 23-29 Mavs, who will need a near-miraculous post-break run to extend the franchise’s postseason streak to 13 years. It’s because the Mavs -- and especially some of the many newcomers -- have failed to meet the franchise’s standards for intensity.

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Carlisle calls lethargy “unfortunately one of the symptoms of our team.” He considers creating energy a part of his job that’s as important as X’s and O’s.

“One of the things you’ve got to do in this job is ... you’ve got to be demanding,” Carlisle said. “And you’ve especially got to be demanding if you have guys whose natural tendency isn’t to bring it all the time. I’m going to be enthusiastic, and I may be a dumb a-- thinking that they can, but until this season ends however it ends, I’m going to approach this every day feeling like every one of these 15 guys can bring us high energy when they step in that door every day.

“If I don’t, then I feel like I’m doing a disservice to my owner and I’m doing a disservice to our fans.”

Carlisle didn’t do much screaming during his first four seasons in Dallas. He didn’t have to.

Life got a lot tougher for Carlisle when Jason Kidd, his coach on the floor, decided to jump to the New York Knicks. Point guard Darren Collison and his 25-year-old backcourt partner O.J. Mayo have frequently been on the receiving end of Carlisle’s harsh rants.

“He had to be tougher this year than he’s ever been,” Dirk Nowitkzi said. “When you have J-Kidd running the show with his experience, he doesn’t have to teach as much, he doesn’t have to yell as much, he doesn’t have to get in people’s faces. J-Kidd as a floor leader gets everybody in their positions. That’s just what he does. This year, we’re missing him. We’re missing his decision-making.

“[Carlisle has] done a lot more teaching. He’s been aggressive the last couple of months. He’s been hard on Mayo and Collison, and they’ve responded and gotten better.”

Added Mayo: “I’m down with coach all day long. He just wants what’s best for us and the team obviously. It’s OK to be hard on your guys when you want what’s best for the team and you want the best on the players, so I’m down with him.”

Yet there was Carlisle after last week’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks blaming himself for the Mavs’ horrible start in that game. That wasn’t a case of a coach shielding his players from accountability. It was basically Carlisle’s way of warning players that he was going to be hell to deal with the next day.

Sure enough, the Mavs had one of their longest, most brutal film sessions of the season after the next day’s practice.

“Look, it’s important that our guys understand that I’m going to have the meter on 10 all the time trying to help them get better, trying to do anything possible to help them get any edge possible to win a game on a given night,” Carlisle said. “If they see that there’s any slippage in that area, they’re going to have an excuse to have slippage themselves. I’m not going to let that happen. I’m not going to let that happen.”