Another coaching job in the NBA has suddenly become available. More important for the Trail Blazers? That a coach the quality of Rick Carlisle isn't just on the open market, but has existing ties to Portland.
Carlisle told ESPN on Thursday that he's resigned as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks despite two years remaining on his contract. His stunning departure comes in wake of Dallas parting ways with longtime president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, who spent a whopping 24 years in the Mavericks' organization.
In a statement relayed to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the 61-year-old Carlisle made clear that he plans on continuing to coach in the NBA.
Could that "next chapter" come in Portland?
Carlisle immediately becomes the most accomplished head-coaching candidate available league-wide. He led underdog Dallas to the championship in 2011, defeating LeBron James and the Miami Heat, and guided the Mavericks to the playoffs in six of the next 10 seasons.
But like Terry Stotts, a lead assistant on Dallas' title team, Carlisle has been unable to even sniff the Larry O'Brien Trophy over the last decade. The last time the Mavericks advanced past the first round of the playoffs was 2011, leading some to cast aspersions on Carlisle's near-consensus status as one of the several best coaches in basketball.
Ignore those critiques for now, at least as they relate to Carlisle's qualifications for the Blazers' job. He'd be a fantastic hire for Portland, the rare head coach candidate who's proven themself capable of putting together offenses and defenses that outperform their roster's level of talent – both in the regular season and the playoffs.
Before Luka Doncic arrived in Dallas, Carlisle pioneered double ball-handler lineups that helped the Mavericks survive offensively amid Dirk Nowitzki's decline and a string of marquee misses in free agency. His 2-3 zone famously stymied the Heatles in the 2011 Finals, paving the way for teams to experiment more and more with zone over the ensuing 10 years. Carlisle pushed most every button available to him in the first round this season, too, as Dallas nearly upset the heavily favored LA Clippers – just as he did in 2014 when the Mavericks almost dispatched of the eventual-champion San Antonio Spurs in seven games.
Carlisle has a history in Portland, spending four seasons as a Blazers assistant in the mid-1990s. His defensive acumen and old-school approach to holding players accountable check boxes on Neil Olshey's candidate wishlist, too.
Carlisle has a reputation for developing close-knit yet challenging relationships with lead ball handlers in particular, perhaps a facsimile of the dynamic Damian Lillard hoped could be provided by his personal favorite as Stotts' successor, Jason Kidd. That could also be a detriment, though. Doncic wasn't exactly thrilled playing under Carlisle this season, per ESPN.
Any notion that bringing Carlisle in would amount to nothing more than reshuffling the deck from Stotts is foolish. They last coached together more than 10 years ago, and Carlisle's impressive resumé of in-game and mid-series adjustments stands in stark contrast to Stotts'.
The Blazers no doubt have interest in Carlisle. But with the Boston Celtics – where Carlisle spent the majority of his brief playing career – still searching and Milwaukee Bucks on the precipice of another distressing postseason flameout, Carlisle likely has his sights set on a more stable organization that gives him a better chance to win a second championship.
Picking up the phone to broach Carlisle's interest in coming back to Portland certainly couldn't hurt, though.