Superstar players in the NBA have more leverage in an organization than a coach — those players are harder to come by. At any time there are maybe 10 players (give or take) in the league that can be a true franchise cornerstone player of a championship team.
Luka Doncic is one of those players (or, at least, can be).
Which is why as his relationship with former Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle soured, it was always the coach who would move on. This summer, Carlise stepped down as the Mavs coach (part of an overall Dallas shake-up in basketball operations) and Jason Kidd was hired as the new Mavericks coach.
The deterioration of the relationship between Carlisle and Doncic is the heart of a brilliantly reported new story at ESPN by Tim MacMahon.
“It wasn’t really about how Rick treated Luka,” a Mavs player on the 2018-19 team said. “Luka hated how Rick treated other people.”…
Several Mavericks team staffers, from members of the coaching staff to non-basketball employees, told ESPN they felt intimidated and disrespected by Carlisle, who they said could be abrasive and demanding. The coach also had contentious relationships with several Mavs players throughout his 13-year tenure…
Doncic questioned Carlisle’s authority in front of the team on at least one occasion early in the 2020-21 season: “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.
Go read the entire story, a handful of paragraphs cannot give the complete picture this story does of what led to the changes in Dallas.
Carlisle, a former NBA player who won a ring with the 1986 Celtics, is old school in a lot of ways, he’s brusque and a bit curmudgeonly at times. He’s also one of the best tacticians in the game, a brilliant Xs and Os coach. His personality does not always sit well with players, especially younger ones who feel his wrath.
It didn’t sit well with Doncic — and ultimately, making him happy is what matters most in Dallas. Doncic never called for Carlise to be fired, but also didn’t have to. Everyone saw the writing on the wall, so Carlise moved on.