After days of wrangling over contract details, the Dallas Mavericks reached a verbal agreement with Rick Carlisle on Friday night to become the club’s new head coach, a source confirmed.
The source said the four-year contract is worth more than $4 million a season — slightly more than former coach Avery Johnson’s per-season salary — and would be signed by late Friday or today. A news conference to formally introduce Carlisle as the franchise’s ninth head coach probably won’t be held until Wednesday, the source said, because of Carlisle’s duties as an analyst for ESPN.
Carlisle, 48, is set to begin his third stint as a head coach in the NBA and first in the rugged Western Conference. Although he’s inheriting perennial All-Stars Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, the Mavs are coming off a second consecutive first-round playoff exit.
Known as an intelligent coach with superb strategic skills, Carlisle’s greatest challenges will be to sharpen his communication skills with players and to loosen his typically structured offense for Kidd, something that failed to happen under Johnson’s rigid offensive system.
The Mavs had anticipated a Friday news conference to introduce Carlisle, but negotiations slowed to the point that by Friday evening it seemed as if the process would drag into the weekend.
Carlisle is expected to bring in his own staff. They will take over a team that has eight players under contract at more than $80 million next season, well over the salary cap. That leaves seven spots to be filled with limited financial maneuverability.
Carlisle is 281-211 in six seasons. He spent two seasons with the Detroit Pistons, where he won 50 games each season, advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and won NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2001-02.
In four seasons with the Indiana Pacers, he won a franchise-record 61 games in his first year and went to the East finals. His tenure began to unravel after the Ron Artest-fueled brawl at the Palace at Auburn Hills in 2004-05, although some suggest that was his best coaching job.
Despite lengthy suspensions to Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal, Carlisle still led the Pacers to the playoffs and a first-round knockout of the Boston Celtics.
-- Jeff Caplan