For much of his time with the Dallas Mavericks, Rick Carlisle was considered one of the best coaches in the game. His brilliant mind and professional demeanor earned him respect from his peers and the rest of the NBA community.
But when certain details about his reign in Dallas came to light, it put a permanent stain on his squeaky clean reputation.
A lot got exposed in the summer, but some of the most damning evidence got revealed on Wednesday afternoon. In particular, one segment about an interaction between Carlisle, Luka Doncic, and Dennis Smith Jr. got a lot of people talking.
It might not have been a basketball fit, but Doncic and Smith had formed a bond. And Carlisle's apparent determination to make Smith miserable during their brief time as teammates was appalling to Doncic, several former players and staffers told ESPN.
Multiple players were shocked during one early-season team meeting when Carlisle accused Smith of being jealous of Doncic, sources said. The players considered it incredibly unfair to Smith, who wasn't playing well but was making an honest effort to mesh with Doncic on the court.
Doncic particularly resented what he perceived as Carlisle's attempt to pit him against his friend and teammate, team sources said.
"It wasn't really about how Rick treated Luka," a Mavs player on the 2018-19 team said. "Luka hated how Rick treated other people."
Apparently, the ex-Mavs coach was making it his personal mission to drive a wedge between Luka and Smith, only adding to the list of toxic behavior within the locker room.
While some might hesitate to believe the credibility of such a story, Dennis Smith Jr. himself confirmed its accuracy. Here is his response to the article:
This article about my time there is spot on. And that’s coming from staff members n players! Y’all don’t even know the half.
Smith Jr. is no longer on the Mavs and neither is Carlisle, so the team is in a much different position today than they were then. Still, it seems the stink from their recent past is only now just starting to come to light.
Whatever else happened during the Carlisle era, it was enough to cause some lasting damage for the organization and perhaps even for Dennis Smith Jr. as well, whose career has taken a nosedive since being traded from Dallas.
In the end, there is no going back to change anything. The best anyone can hope for is that Carlisle has learned from his mistakes and isn't instilling a similar culture in Indiana.