Mavs, Carlisle close to a deal, but it’s not done yet

5-08-08 -- Rick Carlisle is still on the verge of becoming the next coach of the Dallas Mavericks.

Carlisle is the only candidate the team has interviewed since firing Avery Johnson last Wednesday. Negotiations turned serious over the weekend and have continued all week, but as of Wednesday night there were some points still not settled.

However, the most important point—Dallas wanting Carlisle and Carlisle wanting Dallas—seems to be done.

“I think we’re seeing this through. We’re fairly locked in at this point,” said Donnie Nelson, the team’s president of basketball operations. “Everything is going in a positive direction. Both sides feel good about the progress. It’s just a negotiation. They take time. … It’s like docking the Queen Elizabeth. It’s not as easy as whipping your sports car into the driveway.”

Carlisle’s agent, Wayne LeGarie, was overseas and did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press on his cell phone and at his office. He has been quoted as saying a deal could be done by Thursday.

“That’s encouraging,” Nelson said. “We’re still talking. We’re very much in a constant mode of communication.”

The 49-year-old Carlisle has a career record of 281-211 after two seasons in Detroit, then four in Indiana. He was Coach of the Year his first season, went to conference finals in consecutive years—with different teams—and made the playoffs every year until his final one. He worked for ESPN the last year.

In Dallas, he would take over a team that’s won at least 50 games and made the playoffs the last eight years. The Mavs were in the finals in 2006 and won 67 games in ‘07, but lost in the first round of the playoffs then and again this year.

The roster he’d inherit would include Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, plus returning starters Josh Howard, Erick Dampier and Jason Terry. Dallas is strapped under the salary cap and saddled with aging players who carry expensive contracts, not exactly the pieces needed to overhaul a group.

This is the first time owner Mark Cuban is hiring a coach from outside the organization. Because the Mavs focused on Carlisle right away, it seems like a quick move when folks were expecting him to take his time.

Nelson said it’s not as simple as it seems. He and Cuban considered many more candidates—“We did our homework,” Nelson said—and Carlisle rose to the top.

“It’s like when you’re in a position to make a trade. That’s not the time to make calls to every coach he’s played for. You pretty much know about guys and their reputations. You probably know about 80 percent of what you need to know,” Nelson said. “I’m not the kind of guy that likes to bring in 15 candidates. I just think it’s a waste of their time. If there’s a fit and you feel it’s a good one, just try to lock in and execute a deal.”

They’re trying. They just haven’t executed it yet.