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Rick Carlisle is a Head-Scratching Hire For the Indiana Pacers Considering They Already Fired Him Once

By Stephen Douglas
Rick Carlisle with the early '00's Pacers.
Rick Carlisle with the early '00's Pacers. / Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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The Indiana Pacers hired Rick Carlisle to be their new head coach. Carlisle, who resigned as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks after 13 seasons, will take over for Nate Bjorkgren, who went 34-38 in his only season as the Pacers coach. The Pacers were obviously in a hurry to scoop Carlisle up before anyone else, but maybe someone should have told them that fools rush in.

Indiana has not had much luck with coaches recently. The team fired Nate McMillan two weeks after signing him to a contract extension in 2020. McMillan coached Indiana to four postseason appearances in four seasons, but the team never won a playoff series. McMillan is currently coaching the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Before McMillan was coaching the Pacers, Frank Vogel took the franchise to the postseason four times in five years, including two straight Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and 2014. Vogel won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers less than a year ago.

But McMillan and Vogel are not the only former Indiana Pacers head coaches to find success elsewhere. Rick Carlisle coached the Pacders from 2003 to 2007. Larry Bird fired Carlisle after the Pacers missed the postseason for the first time in his four years with the team. He then went to Dallas Mavericks and coached the team that won the title in 2011.

So the Pacers hired a coach who they themselves fired more than a decade ago. And they don't appear to have done a very thorough job search to land back on the guy they started with either. They apparently had a phone conversation with Brian Shaw and not much else.

Maybe the worst part of all this if you're a Pacers fan is that Carlisle hasn't won a playoff series since the 2011 NBA Finals. The Mavericks missed the playoffs in four of the last 10 seasons and were knocked out in the first round each time they actually made the postseason and they haven't been better than a six-seed in that entire time. Carlisle was given a generational talent three years ago in Luka Doncic and they lost to the Clippers in back-to-back postseasons, including blowing a 2-0 lead this year.

To put it bluntly, the Pacers have re-hired a coaching retread who is a decade removed from any real on-court success. Obviously, that's the most negative read possible of the situation, but that doesn't make it inaccurate. It will be fun to see what Carlisle can do with this group that just finished four games under .500, but has some interesting pieces and the 13th pick in the upcoming draft.

Who knows? Maybe there are some moves to be made and the Pacers can become contenders for the first time since the Malice at the Palace era or win their first title since Slick Leonard coached the franchise to three ABA titles in four years in the early 70s. Slick Carlisle does have a nice ring to it.

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