Rick Carlisle On His Return To Lead The Pacers


Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle on the court holding up a high-five
Pacers coach, Rick Carlisle

So, which is more challenging: summers in Texas or winters in Indiana?

Oh boy. I’m going to say it’s a toss-up.

Your interview for the coaching job was basically a phone call. How did this differ from your first hiring?

Actually, the processes were similar because there was a level of familiarity both times. The first time around, I had been an assistant coach for three years with Larry Bird. Larry got the president position with the Pacers, and he and I were well acquainted. This time around, I knew Herb Simon and Kevin Pritchard. Larry’s not there day to day anymore, but I talked to him briefly about the job before deciding to get into serious conversations about it, too.

How long after you quit the job in Dallas did the Pacers get in touch?

It happened within a day or two. Things went pretty quickly.

What’s the biggest change in Indianapolis since the last time you were here?

Since I’ve been back, I’ve mostly been around downtown. And the changes are obvious. What they’re doing to the Fieldhouse is amazing. The new practice facility is state of the art and among the top five in the league.

Do you get recognized?

Yes, but people have been welcoming. That’s a nice feeling. I had a very good experience here last time. There ended up being a lot of changes with the team that ultimately launched the Pacers into rebuild mode, but that’s part of the cyclical nature of the NBA.

Did you struggle at all with the decision to come back?

No, I’ve watched the team from afar and I liked the roster. I like the skill level of the guys. It appears to be an unselfish group. If you have that, you can make progress.

What does your family think of the move?

They’re excited. My daughter was very young during my first turn as coach here, but she remembers a little bit of it. And my wife had a great experience here. She’s a physician who worked at Riley when we were in Indianapolis. That was a great experience for her professionally.

Any restaurants you’re anxious to revisit?

We’ve been to Iaria’s Italian Restaurant twice already. It’s so consistent. Of course, it’s family-owned, and each generation carries on the tradition from the previous one. I gravitate to places like that.

What’s the difference in energy between a game in Indianapolis and Dallas?

I’ll probably have to experience it this time around before I can give an answer. I think that in general, game day in the NBA is pretty consistent. It’s an exciting league.

Where are you living?

I live near downtown. I’ve always tried to live close to the venues. In Dallas, we were close to both the practice facility and the arena, and it’s the same situation here. My commute is just a few minutes. 

Are there more downtown residential options available now than there were during your last coaching stint?

That part has changed a lot in the 13 years since I left. There are so many more options. And the city’s restaurant scene and cultural amenities have certainly progressed, which is great to see.

What has surprised you most since your return?

I think the one thing that’s been really—well, surprising might not be the right word because I had heard great things—but the facilities here are just spectacular. Both the practice facility and what they’re doing to the arena. It’s about a $400 million overhaul. I got a tour last week, and it’s going to be very, very special. Another pleasant surprise is how quickly we’ve been able to get a great staff together. We have a very diverse staff in terms of background, perspective, and experience, and that will be good for our players and for all of us.

How long are your days right now?

They’re long. I get in around 8 a.m., and last night, I was here until a little after 8 p.m. Right now, I’m going through draft stuff and looking at different possibilities with the roster, but it’s always something.

So would you like, ideally, for this to be the place where you close out your coaching career?

Yes, that would be great.

You appear in your daughter’s TikTok videos occasionally. Is that a fallback job if this coaching thing doesn’t work out?

I certainly hope not.