Indiana Pacers: Rick Carlisle has been a breath of fresh air

Rick Carlisle - Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Carlisle - Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

While the Indiana Pacers certainly could’ve hoped for a better start to the 2021-22 season after losing two of their first three games, the early stretch of the campaign has not been short of meaningful takeaways.

One positive ripple observable from the Pacers this time around is head coach Rick Carlisle who, despite failing to steer the Blue and Gold to a winning record so far, has been a breath of fresh air for the franchise in his return to the Circle City.

Brought in as a replacement for the erratic Nate Bjorkgren, who was fired after only one season, the veteran tactician has not only impressed with his trademark in-game smarts, but has also instilled a lot more accountability and leadership on the roster while ensuring that he’s not insulated from criticisms. In fact, he has acknowledged them, a stark contrast to the previous season where turbulent off-court mishaps derailed the Pacers.

Rick Carlisle has already proven that he is the right man to lead the Indiana Pacers

Rick Carlisle, while certainly a widely coveted commodity after his divorce with the Dallas Mavericks, wasn’t necessarily coming from an amicable situation. After all, his exit from the Mavs was reported to have been caused by his tension with franchise star Luka Doncic. While that can’t be a source of glitzy stories for anyone, it seems like his tenure with the Indiana Pacers is flipping that script early.

After the Pacers lost a close contest to the Charlotte Hornets in their season opener, Carlisle took responsibility for the last play in which the team failed to convert, losing the game, pointing out that unsuccessful plays, especially on crunch time, fall on the coach’s shoulders.

Conversely, after notching their first win over Miami, he admitted that not playing Oshae Brissett, easily the most impactful Pacer on that game, in the first two games, was a mistake. Despite being known for his predilection for veterans, he has shown flexibility in adapting his rotation, a theme that should continue for the rest of the season given Indiana’s injury-prone roster.

Last season, these quotes were simply inexistent. Faltering after a great start, what the Pacers got instead were troubling anecdotes regarding Bjorkgren’s exploits—which started from general micromanagement and abrasive communication style, and peaked at peculiar off-court policies that included imposing wardrobe restrictions on players—ultimately prompting his dismissal from the franchise.

Despite his seeming lenience, Rick Carlisle is a disciplinarian, a tough veteran coach known for not being afraid to speak boldly when the situation calls for it. It’s the formula that helmed them in Dallas and culminated in a title. While the Indiana Pacers are far from being near that level, all early signs point to the franchise having the right man for the job.

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