This is an article from the May 23, 2011 issue
Carlisle is the sixth coach in NBA history to lead three different teams to the conference finals. He also won a title as a player with the Celtics.
Dan Patrick:Do you want Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook to shoot more or less against you in the Western Conference finals?
Rick Carlisle: He's gotten a lot of criticism for not passing enough. But some guys, that's just who they are. It appears to me that he's getting better and better. He's going to keep striking a better balance. [Thunder head coach] Scott Brooks is no dummy. He played point guard in the league for many, many years. He knows what's best for his team. They're encouraging [Westbrook] to play his game, which is the right thing to do.
DP:What do you think the future holds for Phil Jackson?
RC: My belief is that he's done coaching, but I don't know if he's done with professional basketball.
DP:What could Jackson do?
RC: He'd be a very attractive candidate if I were an owner and wanted to build a team.
DP:How would you feel coaching under him?
RC: I'm sure it would be great. You have to remember, I was fortunate to be drafted by Red Auerbach. I played for the Celtics for three years. I was around a lot of guys who had that kind of pedigree. A lot of people think that Red Auerbach could be a menacing guy to be around. I found that he had a great feel for getting his point across and also softening it up and encouraging you.
DP:When the Lakers' Andrew Bynum took down J.J. Barea in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, did you first think about your player on the ground or the guys on the bench to make sure they didn't go onto the court?
RC: Initially Barea. I didn't think our bench was going to go onto the floor. We talk about that. We rehearse those situations. Our guys know what's at stake.
DP:How do you rehearse that?
RC: In practice you set up situations where guys are on the bench, and [you] say, "Now there's a melee." Three coaches, an equipment guy and a trainer get up and blockade everyone off, and nobody leaves the bench. It sounds dumb. It helps to set it up exactly like that. When that happens, guys know the right thing to do.
DP:Is a five-game suspension next season for Bynum adequate?
RC: It's significant. League officials are very sensitive to these kinds of situations. In their mind they're going to err on the side of severity. I'm fine with it.
DP:You said Dirk Nowitzki was one of the top 10 players of all time. I can't see taking off any of the guys you usually find on that list for Nowitzki.
RC: Reasonable men have a right to disagree.
DP:Would you say that if you weren't the Mavericks coach?
RC: I don't know, but I am.
DP:Is he better than Kevin McHale?
RC: They're different. McHale played with [Larry] Bird, [Robert] Parish, those guys. It's a completely different situation. If Dirk had three Hall of Famers around him, the conversation would be different. I'm a huge fan. I recognize his greatness.
DP:So you stand by your claim?
RC: I do.
DP:Then we'll just disagree.
RC: Won't be the first time.
• Fightin' Words
In addition to his new gig announcing college football and basketball for Fox, Gus Johnson will still call boxing and mixed-martial-arts bouts for Showtime. Considering that WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao can't find much competition in the boxing ring, I asked Johnson how he thought Pacquiao would fare in the Octagon. "He'd get killed," Johnson said. "No question. Tapped out in a minute."
• Tom Foolery
After more than two decades as an NBA assistant, Tom Thibodeau won Coach of the Year in his first season at the helm of the Bulls. It's an honor that should merit the trophy a special place in his home. Only Thibodeau isn't sure where the trophy is. "It got nicked up, and they sent it to be fixed," Thibodeau told me. "I think it's back, but I'm not sure where." Thibodeau didn't remember what happened but was content to blame Chicago's Joakim Noah, who seems like a good candidate to cause hardware-related mischief.
• Line of the week
Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi on the possibility that Dwight Howard will eventually leave the Magic:
"We are a one-horse sports town, and he is our Secretariat."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com
1. Drew Brees on how he's keeping busy during the lockout.
2. Evan Longoria weighs in on the American League East race.
THE FINE PRINT: This year's French Open will be the first Grand Slam without a Williams sister since 2003. That means other players will have to step up and wear questionable outfits.