Surging Mavs threaten new No. 1

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If the season ended today, the top of my Coach of the Year ballot would read as follows:

Scott Brooks

Jerry Sloan

Scott Skiles

But there is a dark horse candidate who keeps popping up in my brain: Rick Carlisle.

Certainly Dallas should be good, what with two All-Stars (Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd) and the reigning Sixth Man Award winner (Jason Terry) on the roster. But the Mavs' stunning success -- namely an 11-game winning streak and the NBA's best record since the All-Star break -- after the deadline deal that brought Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Big D is a credit to Carlisle's ability to blend players with a variety of offensive talents into a cohesive unit.

If the Mavericks somehow stay hot for the rest of the regular season -- a tall task in a rugged conference -- it will be hard to keep Carlisle's name off the top of the ballot.

(All stats and records are through March 7.)

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