Rick Carlisle ended his lengthy tenure as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks when he decided to step down from his role back in June, leaving behind a talented team led by Luka Doncic. There are a number of theories that try to explain why Carlisle left the Mavs, and among them was the reported rift between him and Doncic.
But in a recent report by Tim McMahon of ESPN, it appears that Carlisle’s dislike of Dennis Smith Jr. and his attempt at fraying the established relationship between Doncic and the former NC State Wolfpack star.
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.
Although Doncic has never spoken publicly about any serious disconnect between him and Carlisle, his actions spoke louder.
Carlisle had intended to travel to Doncic’s native country several days later in June to observe the Slovenian national team’s camp and spend time with the Mavs’ star. Those plans, however, were canceled at Doncic’s request, sources said.
Smith has played for three teams since he left the Mavs, as he was traded to the New York Knicks in 2019 then was shipped again to the Detroit Pistons two years later. After the Pistons renounced their free-agent exceptions rights on Smith, he found a new home with the Portland Trail Blazers.
As for Doncic and the Mavs, they found a replacement for Carlisle in former Dallas player Jason Kidd, who has big shoes to fill, considering Carlisle’s track record as the franchise’s former head coach.