The Mavericks made it official last night when they hired Rick Carlisle as their head coach, replacing Avery Johnson after three-plus seasons at the Dallas helm.
Speculation of the hire ran rampant for the past week, and it seems to me he was the only serious candidate interviewed.
Carlisle brings a solid reputation to Dallas after previously coaching the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers, taking both teams to the Eastern Conference Finals. A balanced coach, Carlisle interestingly draws very similar comparisons to Johnson. Both are disciplinarians and like to run set offenses, which leaves me a little puzzled.
Were there many viable candidates better than Carlisle?
Maybe one: Larry Brown would have been a good fit had he not been hired by the Charlotte Bobcats days before the Mavericks parted ways with Johnson.
The feeling in Dallas was this team is best suited running an up-tempo offense with Jason Kidd leading the show. With that in mind, I think Carlisle had to agree to that stipulation in order to get the head coaching job.
Unfortunately, this deal isn't the missing piece for the Mavericks to get to the finals. Their problems are personnel- and salary cap-related, and problems that will not likely go away until at least 2009.
The Mav's are $25 million over the cap and are in salary cap jail with huge contracts for Jason Kidd, Erick Dampier, and Josh Howard, making each virtually untradeable. Along with the salary-cap issues, the team has no first-round draft choices until 2010, thanks in part to trading for Kidd at the trade deadline this season.
What the Mav's really need is another bonafide scorer to complement All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and the struggling Howard. They could also use another low-post player to back up Dampier, but will have to make these improvements with only the mid-level exception, which will likely be somewhere between $5-and-6 million.
One likely scenario would be for Dallas to re-sign Desagana Diop, who is a free agent after being traded to New Jersey in the Kidd deal. But getting a scorer would seem to be a little more difficult, given their salary cap situation and the untradeable parts.
So, Rick Carlisle, welcome to Dallas. Hope you brought your magic wand!