Report: Luka Doncic Was Unhappy with Rick Carlisle's Treatment of Mavs Players, Execs

Adam WellsDecember 15, 2021

Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic (77) and Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle talk as the Mavericks play the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Dallas. The Mavericks won 111-102. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

New details about the fractured relationship between former Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle and franchise superstar Luka Doncic have been revealed. 

Per ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Doncic became particularly unhappy with the way Carlisle would treat Mavericks players and executives. 

One situation cited by MacMahon was Carlisle's "apparent determination to make" Dennis Smith Jr. "miserable" when he was in Dallas: 

"Multiple players were shocked during one early-season team meeting when Carlisle accused Smith of being jealous of Doncic, sources said. The players considered it incredibly unfair to Smith, who wasn't playing well but was making an honest effort to mesh with Doncic on the court."

One unnamed player on the 2018-19 Mavericks roster told MacMahon that Doncic "hated how Rick treated other people."

Smith, who was traded to the New York Knicks as part of the package for Kristaps Porzingis in Jan. 2019, chimed in on MacMahon's report on Twitter: 

Dennis Smith Jr. @Dennis1SmithJr

This article about my time there is spot on. And that’s coming from staff members n players! Y’all don’t even know the half. <a href="https://t.co/9gh2DI4xPu">https://t.co/9gh2DI4xPu</a>

Following Carlisle's decision to step down as Mavs head coach in June, rumblings of discord between him and members of the organization began to percolate. 

Per Tim Cato of The Athletic, Carlisle "was often difficult to deal with: lashing out verbally at non-star players he disliked or having angry outbursts directed at inanimate objects behind closed doors."

According to MacMahon, Carlisle did have moments last season when he attempted to rehab his relationship with Doncic. 

"The coach heaped praise on his star in the media, often comparing him to legends such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and protected the Mavs' young face of the franchise from criticism, even if it required stretching logic to do so." wrote MacMahon. 

It was unsuccessful, in part, because the dynamic "was too far gone" and Doncic became "more defiant" of Carlisle during games. 

One such instance came early in the 2020-21 season when Doncic openly questioned Carlisle's authority with the Mavs: 

"'Who's in charge—you or Bob?' Doncic barked on his way back to the bench during an early-season game. He was referring to then-Mavs director of quantitative research Haralabos 'Bob' Voulgaris, whose rise in power played a role in Dallas' front-office dysfunction and who many players believed dictated lineups and rotation decisions to Carlisle. Carlisle relied heavily on Voulgaris' data but always had final say, team sources said."

Doncic emerged as one of the best players in the NBA during his first three seasons playing for Carlisle. He's finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in each of the past two seasons. 

The Mavs made the postseason in each of the last two seasons under Carlisle, but their inability to close games led to first-round exits. They lost the final two games against the Los Angeles Clippers after taking a 3-2 series lead in last year's postseason. 

Less than two weeks after that loss, Carlisle announced he was leaving Dallas after 13 seasons. Jason Kidd, who played for Carlisle from 2008-12, was hired as head coach on June 28. 

Dallas owns a 14-13 record thus far in Kidd's first season with the team.