Friday, January 05, 2007

The Time is Now for Pacers and Carlisle

The Pacers need to find the win column soon before this combustible collection of talent starts fraying at the edges. With several short fuses in the playing rotation history tells us it doesn't take much adversity to send the Pacers reeling. Mike Wells has an interesting article quoting ex-Pacers Austin Croshere and Anthony Johson praising the demanding yet clear leadership role provided by the Mavs' Avery Johnson. These comments are an obvious swipe at Rick Carlisle and his varied treatment of players.

TrueHoop uses the Wells piece to ponder leadership and the lack of true leaders running NBA teams. Reflecting on Carlisle's current situation with the Pacers, you have to wonder just how long he can continue coaching this group. This really doesn't have anything to do with RC's coaching ability, but instead the situation. Carlisle has been dealt some brutal hands to work with during his time in Indy. So much craziness has gone on in the past two and half years that just keeping healthy, non-suspended players available for game time has been a struggle at times. When discipline is being handed down from the front office and the Commissioner, the coach is left to try to pump up guys to play.

It appears that Carlisle has taken a stronger hand this year but will it do any good? A change in voice with the same core players doesn't carry much weight. If the team keeps hovering around .500 and can't make any drastic roster changes, a change at coach will be needed sooner rather than later.

While coaching the Pacers, Larry Joe Legend often professed that a coach's words start losing impact after three years, so he always planned to step down after three years. To some extent, that is why I was surprised when RC re-upped with the Ps in the off season for a fourth season. But RC's additional title of Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations makes it easier for LJL to transition Carlisle from the bench to a desk without dumping his friend. Maybe this was their plan all along. Give it a shot, see if these guys pull together, if not RC can land softly upstairs. This is a horrible idea by the way. Should Carlisle step down or be pushed out, he shouldn't be anywhere near a new coach as he tries to set a fresh course for the team.

The Pacers have had a couple of months to incorporate new faces, so their grace period for figuring out how to play together is up. Now is the time to see just what this team is capable of with no room for excuses. Passing judgment won't stop with the players but will also include the man calling the shots on the sideline.

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