Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Story Time with Coach Carlisle

Rick Carlisle has developed a reputation in the NBA as a demanding, no nonsense head coach that seems to lack emotion or empathy for his players when the going gets tough. We've heard how he's a control freak, not willing to alter his philosophy about offensive sets or playing rotations. Most of this stigma surfaced when the Pistons were scrounging around for reasons to fire their successful (back-to-back 50 win seasons) coach in order to hire Larry Brown after the '02-'03 season.

I've always simply pegged Carlisle as a straight shooter, laying out the facts as he sees them without regard to others' opinion (not unlike his boss/friend, Larry Joe Legend). This may be misinterpreted as arrogance or indifference by some media members and fans who are accustomed to hearing more delicate, positive spin from coaches around the league.

While he rarely offers spin about the Pacers he can spin a pretty good story or two from his past. This month, Indy Men's Magazine published an interview with Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle that offers insight into Rick Carlisle the head coach, former player, husband, father, musician, and Deadhead.

Unfortunately, the whole interview is only available in the print copy of IMM that can be found in most stores and newsstands around Central Indiana for free. The magazine is kind of a GQ/Esquire for men with money to burn (or dreams of earning money to burn) in Indy. Usually a great read with plenty of entertainment (no, I don't know anyone at the magazine). Since you may not have access to IMM, I want to share a couple of stories that made me laugh while reading.

On his days with the championship Celtics:

IMM: You began your pro career with the Celtics and won an NBA championship as a player in 1986. I'm sure you've got some stories.
RC: There are a lot of stories. But the one that stands out is one from my first year. It was March...I hadn't got in a game in about two and half weeks. At the end of the third quarter, K.C. Jones comes down the end of the bench and says, "You got Danny." Meaning I'm in for Danny Ainge. So I go squeeze into the huddle at the quarter, and I'm sitting next to the guys who are in the game. K.C. takes out his dry-erase board and starts designing a play. He says, "Dennis, you've got the ball right here." He makes a D and a circle. "Kevin, you're here. Robert, you're here. Larry, you're here." And he looks at me and he goes, "Uh...right here" and he puts a scribble mark. For everyone else, he had put an initial. So we stand up after the timeout and, Larry goes, "K.C., I want you to meet Rick. He's been with us for six months. Rick, this is K.C." I laughed and everybody laughed, and I went into the game and played pretty well. I hit a shot. Played for about six minutes. But that was typical: The coach didn't know my name. That's a story I always hark back to."

After some questions about his piano playing and musical influences, Carlisle mentions spending time around the Grateful Dead thanks to Bill Walton which leads to the next story:

IMM: What's your favorite Dead song?
RC: "New Minglewood Blues." I also love "Jack Straw." My wife and I had our first date at a Dead show in 1987 at the Capital Centre. During the intermission we went back and sat in a room with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir and Mickey Hart and just shot the s*#%. It was a phenomenal first date, let's put it that way.
The interview also covers Carlisle's thoughts on coaching, his relationship with key players, and the current NBA. It is obvious he is cognizant of his rep and through his answers you can tell he's taking steps to address some of the areas where his public image may be misunderstood. The Pacers have been a PR nightmare for the past couple of years so this interview offered Carlisle a chance to speak to skeptical fans with a smile on his face.

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