The situation the other night between Rajon Rondo and Rick Carlisle wasn’t Paul Newman and Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke. But clearly, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

rondoCarlisle knows it; he was aware of it before it started. Then it all came to a head on Tuesday night in the third quarter vs. the Raptors. Rondo began a shouting match with his coach on the court. It continued into a timeout. The player was benched; the yelling continued into the locker room after the game.

That’s not a recipe towards coming together as a team with only 22 games until the playoffs.

Fortunately for the Mavericks, Carlisle has learned a few things from his years of experience as a coach in this league. Larry Bird was a big influence, as was Bill Fitch, among others. The great Celtics teams of the 80’s provided a stable foundation of learning how to win for Carlisle, who, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated coaches in league history.

Take this latest situation with Rondo, for instance. There are several ways to deal with it. Can you imagine how Bob Knight would handle it? How about Dick Motta? Phil Jackson? Egos come in all shapes and sizes and those three are, well, large. All great coaches and good guys to grab a beer with, but I can’t imagine seeing much patience from them for a player who just got into a yelling match with them on the court.

How does the saying go? “It’s my way or the highway.”

Yeah, that’s how many coaches would deal with this, basically showing the player who’s boss and how it is going to be.

Carlisle has a highway too. But his goes both ways. Instead of putting this all on Rondo, Carlisle admits that the fault on this issue lies with both of them.

“The incident was born in large part from poor communication between him and I,” Carlisle said. “And that’s on both of us. We had a long talk about the situation, and we both agreed that we need to communicate more frequently and we need to work on the solution for making his stint as a Dallas Maverick the most successful one possible.”

Carlisle’s no dummy. There’s another saying — “Nip it in the bud.” That’s exactly what he’s done.

The Mavericks had the day off Thursday and are back on the practice court today. Carlisle said the issue is behind them and Rondo will be back in the starting lineup on Saturday vs. Brooklyn.

“For us to get where we want to get and we strive to get this season, his abilities have to be utilized by us the best possible way,” Carlisle said. “That’s in large part my responsibility, and I do not dodge that. That starts with great communication with him. I’m always working on being a better communicator. And we talked about it. And he admitted he’s got to do the same. We’ll go forward from here.”

That’s what makes Carlisle such a great coach. There’s no looking back. He immediately sat down with Rondo the next day and worked through the issue, while maintaining the discipline needed with a one-game suspension on Wednesday at Atlanta.

The jury is still out on whether the Rajon Rondo trade will work out for the Mavericks in the long run. Obtaining a veteran starter midway though the season is always a tricky proposition; even more so when that player is the point guard quarterbacking your team. But make no mistake – Carlisle will give the Mavericks the best chance of coming together with the biggest games of the season about six weeks away.

It’s still a two-lane highway. Trust that Carlisle will get everyone on his team going in the same direction.

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Rob Scichili (shick-lee) has worked in professional sports for over 24 years in PR and communications, including time with the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, MLB.com, Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks. A journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he is co-owner and editor at ScoreboardTx, principal at Shick Communications and VP at Franchise Sports & Entertainment while serving on the board of the Mike Modano Foundation.


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