LOS ANGELES – When he passed Don Nelson and became the Dallas Mavericks’ all-time winningest coach with Sunday’s 103-93 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at the STAPLES Center, Rick Carlisle couldn’t help but to propose a toast.
"Nellie is one of the greatest coaches ever,’’ Carlisle said. "In his honor, tonight I’m going to crack open a beer and drink one to him because he’s one of the all-time greats and he’s a great friend.’’
Carlisle, who now has 340 career wins with the Mavs to 339 for Nelson, then stepped back and tossed around some more bouquets.
"Listen, there are many people to thank for being in this position, but the two main ones I gave big hugs in the locker room, and that’s Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki,’’ Carlisle said. "A guy doesn’t get in this position unless you have a great owner and one of the all-time great franchise players, so I’m very blessed.’’
Nowitzki also feels blessed for the freedom he’s received over the past seven-plus seasons from Carlisle, who has his team off to a 2-1 start.
"He’s our guy, he’s been pushing all the right buttons for us,’’ Nowitzki said. "He’s a great motivator when he needs to be, he can be soft when he needs to be.
"He just finds always a great middle ground, and he’s a great in-game adjuster. He usually has great game plans and he’s one of the greats in the business, so we’re glad he’s ours and as it looks he’s going to be here for a long, long time and we’re happy with that.’’
Carlisle, who is currently negotiating a five-year extension which will keep him with the Mavs through the 2020-‘21 season, doesn’t ever discuss his contract. But he was more than willing to discuss Nelson, who is the NBA’s all-time winningest coach with 1,335 victories.
"All the love and respect to Nellie for what he stood for in this game and how he’s mentored so many of us younger guys along the way,’’ Carlisle said. "And I’m very fortunate.’’
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