The Indiana Pacers are bringing back a familiar face to be head coach. According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Pacers are hiring Rick Carlisle on a four-year, $29 million contract to return as head coach. The 61-year-old parted ways with the Dallas Mavericks last week after another early exit from the playoffs. Carlisle’s second head coaching stint was in Indiana from 2003-07.
Carlisle’s exit from Dallas was abrupt and sort of came out of nowhere. He had spent 13 seasons with the Mavericks, winning a championship in 2011 while compiling a 555-478 record in the regular season. Carlisle was replaced back in 2007 with Jim O’Brien, who had very little success in Indiana.
The Pacers letting go of Carlisle was a perplexing move at the time. He made the playoffs in each of the first three seasons and was 181-147 in the regular season. Indy’s roster back then featured an aging Reggie Miller along with a few studs in Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington and a young Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace). Carlisle was also early into his head coaching career. After all this experience, perhaps the second time around will bring more success.
Carlisle will have a pretty solid roster to work with in Indiana. Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner are all All-Star caliber players. Sabonis has made two straight All-Star appearances, while Brogdon has been borderline. Turner was on course to be a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year before injuries derailed his campaign. Throw in TJ Warren missing all of 2020-21 and Caris LeVert coming in mid-season via trade, and the Pacers could have had a very promising season. Carlisle may be just the man to get Indy over the hump and into the top 4 in the East.