Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle says he’s not moving to front office, doesn’t fear rebuild: ‘I came here to coach’

Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle is not about to become Indiana Pacers executive Rick Carlisle, according to Rick Carlisle. 

“I came here to coach,” he said Thursday, via James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star

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There have been whispers that Carlisle, wanted to move to the front office. The Athletic’s John Hollinger slipped “new coach/GM Rick Carlisle (wait, was that my out-loud voice?)” into a column in February, and on Thursday Marc Stein described the speculation as “persistent.” Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer went with “rampant,” adding that it dated back to last offseason and “seemed to be refueled” at last week’s McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago.  

“I want to put this to rest once and for all,” Carlisle said, per Michael Preston, the Pacers’ VP of basketball communications.

He continued: “Let me be absolutely clear. I’m here to coach this team. I’m here to coach this team for the long-haul if they’ll have me. And I’m not afraid of any aspect of a rebuild one single bit. Not one bit. And one of the reasons I came back to Indiana — ’cause this is like family to me — my experience here as an assistant and then as a younger head coach is one of the reasons that I’ve been able to have a career that probably would have been beyond my wildest dreams. So I have a great deal of loyalty to this franchise, a great deal of love and respect for [owner] Herb Simon, who’s a trusted friend. 

“And, you know, sometimes, you have to take two steps back to have three or four steps forward. And that happens to be the position that we’re sitting in right now. And I know the realities of this league all too well. I know the East is tough and the West had a down year. But this league has more and more become about parity from top to bottom, and, you know, we’ll be on top of our shit and we’re going to get it right in the draft and we’re going to have a great summer and next year is going to be an exciting year for the Pacers.”

According to Fieldhouse Files’ Scott Agness, Carlisle spoke for more than seven minutes.

“I came here to work with [team president] Kevin Pritchard, for Kevin Pritchard and work with his team,” Carlisle said, via the Indianapolis Star. “And it’s a great team. It’s Kevin, it’s Chad Buchanan, Kelly Krauskopf and Ted [Wu]. And so I just want to be completely clear on this, and I don’t know what the assumptions are that people are making about this, why this would be the case. 

“When I came here, we had hoped to have a really good season this year. We had some struggles early, and it morphed into a change in direction. But that’s OK. It has not quelled my enthusiasm for being back with the Indiana Pacers or taking on this challenge one single bit.”

Indiana is 25-55 and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Entering the season, however, the plan was to compete for a playoff spot.

“We need to get back in the playoffs and we need to find a way to win in the playoffs,” Carlisle said at at his introductory press conference last June. “It’s pretty clear that that’s what the mandate is.”

As Carlisle said, the Pacers pivoted when they had a slower start than they had anticipated. They never got fully healthy, and, even when they had most of their core players available and a decent point differential, it was not reflected in their record. 

Before the trade deadline, the front office made two future-focused trades, first moving Caris LeVert for a protected first-round pick, two seconds and Ricky Rubio’s expiring contract; then trading Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb and a future second-round pick for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and the soon-to-be-waived Tristan Thompson. Indiana did not, however, have a fire sale. This franchise has a long track record that suggests it will try to make a jump next season. 

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