Rick Carlisle was as close to a sure thing as possible when the Mavericks hired him as their head coach in 2008.
He had spent six years coaching in the NBA (with the Pistons and Pacers), won a Coach of the Year award and won 61 games in another season.
Still, he had a reputation as being cold with his players and too stubborn to adjust in the playoffs. He was far from a sure thing.
That’s just the nature of coaching.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on the Artie Lange show, as transcribed by The Dallas Morning News:
The hardest job for an owner of any professional sports team is hiring a coach. I talk to people here about the Cowboys and everybody wants to slam Jerry Jones. Hiring a head coach is harder than finding a wife. I’ve been lucky, I’ve only had three coaches in my entire 14 years.
It’s difficult to assess coaches, who often work with the same players with the same teams before being fired. A team’s success is dependent on players more than coaches, and coaches’ main contributions come behind the scenes.
But the Mavericks got the Carlisle hiring right, in part because they used the best information at their disposal. One study found Carlisle got the most out of his players, and another showed he used the most effective lineups more often than other coaches. I’m sure Cuban interviewed Carlisle too, judging the coach on subjective factors.
That background work has resulted in a highly successful partnership between Carlisle and the Mavericks, the peak being Dallas’ 2011 title. Only Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra (by a few days) have been with their current team longer.
By the way, Cuban has been married since 2002 – meaning his relationship with Tiffany Stewart outdates his with Carlisle.