2011 NBA Finals: Dallas Mavericks Have Edge When It Comes to Head Coaches
However, one area the Mavericks may have a legitimate advantage is when it comes to the head coaches prowling the sidelines.
Rick Carlisle is an underrated coach who, if he can help Dallas pull off an upset against LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the South Beach Boys, will carve a nice place as one of the biggest giant-killers in league history.
Let's look at why Carlisle may be the reason the Mavericks beat the Heat in this year's NBA Finals:
NBA Finals Experience as a Player
After a successful college career at Virginia, Rick Carlisle was drafted by and played for the Boston Celtics.
While playing a limited role off the bench, Carlisle was a part of the Celtics team that won the NBA championship in 1986 against the Houston Rockets and lost in the NBA Finals in 1985 and 1987 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Erik Spoelstra played four years for the University of Portland. He was selected as the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year.
After graduation, Spoelstra spent two years as a player/coach on a German professional team.
Assistant Coaching Experience
Rick Carlisle went straight from playing on the court to coaching on the NBA sidelines.
He was able to glean much as he served as an assistant under a number of quality NBA coaches, such as Bill Fitch, Chuck Daly, P.J. Carlesimo and Larry Bird.
As Bird's assistant, Carlisle helped the Pacers to two of their most successful seasons: making it to the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals and the 2000 NBA Finals.
Erik Spoelstra joined the Miami Heat staff in 1995 first as the team's video coordinator. He moved two year's later onto the coaching staff.
Spoelstra was one of Pat Riley's assistants when the Heat won the 2006 NBA Finals, ironically beating the Dallas Mavericks.
First Years as an NBA Head Coach
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In 2001, Rick Carlisle was named the head coach of the Detroit Pistons.
From 2001-2003, Carlisle posted a 100-64 record (.610 winning percentage) with consecutive 50-32 seasons.
The Pistons won two Central Division titles and made playoff appearances in both years.
Carlisle was named the NBA Coach of the Year in 2002
Carlisle became the first coach since Pat Riley to win 50 games and division championships in each of his first three seasons as head coach.
In nine regular seasons as an NBA head coach, Carlisle is 443-295.
This past season was Erik Spoelstra's third season as an NBA head coach.
In his first two years as the head coach of the Miami Heat, Spoelstra logged a 90-74 record (.548 winning percentage), taking the Heat to the playoffs in both seasons.
Spoelstra's three-year record is 148-98.
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Going into the 2011 NBA Playoffs, Rick Carlisle's postseason record was 34-36 including two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, by helping the Dallas Mavericks to win the 2011 Western Conference Finals and to the NBA Finals, Carlisle's overall playoff record is 48-39 (.551).
Going into this season, Erik Spoelstra's playoff record was a substandard 4-8, both years being bounced from the playoffs in the first round.
Going into the 2011 NBA Finals, Spoelstra's post-season record now stands at 16-9 a .640 winning percentage.
Reputations and Style
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Rick Carlisle is known as a hard-nosed, detail-oriented tactician.
That's a nice way of saying that he is a nit-picker.
When Carlisle was hired as the Mavs head coach, many people wondered if the Mavericks needed a different style to follow tightly-wound Avery Johnson.
While Carlisle doesn't withhold praise from his players, either privately or publicly, he constantly looks to push his players to excellence.
Erik Spoelstra is known for being a teacher.
Through his years serving as Pat Riley's assistant, Spoelstra was in charge of individual player development, stressing fundamentals, skill development and shooting.
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An NBA Finals win requires experience and mental toughness.
Head coaches need to establish a game plan that gives their team the best chance of winning.
When adjustments are needed, they need to come up with solutions and put them into action.
With all of this in mind, Rick Carlisle gives Dallas the edge it needs to take a shot at the Miami Heat.
Even though the Mavericks go into the 2011 NBA Finals as the underdog, Carlisle's preparation and decision-making may make the difference in who wins it all.