Shortly after the conclusion of their 2020-21 season, Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle resigned from his position and eventually was hired to lead the Indiana Pacers in the same role.
Months later, a report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon shed light on some factors that may have contributed to Carlisle’s decision to walk away from the franchise he called home for more than a decade. Perhaps the biggest issue was his relationships with Kristaps Porzingis and franchise superstar Luka Doncic.
According to MacMahon, the disconnect between Porzingis and Carlisle was in part due to Porzingis’ role offensively, where he predominantly operated as a floor-spacer and spot-up shooter, and was not granted touches in the post that he sought.
“Porzingis was frustrated, feeling he was a strategic afterthought for a team that couldn’t get out of the first round,” MacMahon wrote. “As he entered the offseason, Porzingis was so disillusioned, sources said, that he privately hoped he would be traded.”
Meanwhile, Doncic routinely clashed with Carlisle to the point that “players, staffers and coaches had become accustomed to Doncic cursing out Carlisle” amid heated moments. The source of Doncic’s frustration was less about Carlisle’s specific approach with him, but about his relationships with others in general.
“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.”
At one point, Carlisle accused Dennis Smith Jr. — someone Doncic quickly grew close with during their brief time together — “of being jealous of Doncic, sources said. The players considered it incredibly unfair to Smith, who wasn’t playing well but was making an honest effort to mesh with Doncic on the court.”
At another point, Carlisle cursed out Salah Mejri, someone who served as a “big-brother figure for Doncic,” dating back to their time together with Real Madrid.
Examples like those are anecdotes that illuminate the deteriorating relationship between Carlisle and Doncic, which ultimately led to the former’s departure.