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Dallas Mavericks taking a major interest in Carlisle

After two interviews Rick Carlisle appears to be the front-runner to replace Avery Johnson, although Dallas Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said no offer has been made.

Carlisle, the former Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers coach and current ESPN analyst, has met with Nelson and Mavs owner Mark Cuban. One report also had Carlisle meeting Friday with Dirk Nowitzki.

“We’ve had a few very productive meetings with Rick. We’re very impressed by not only the basketball IQ, but the person,” Nelson said Saturday. “We look forward to continuing the dialogue. We’ve gathered some information, as have they [Carlisle and agent Warren LaGarie].

“The first set of meetings has gone very well.”

Carlisle, 49, did not return a message left Friday at ESPN, where he’s worked as a studio analyst this season after accumulating a 281-211 record in six seasons at Indiana and Detroit, with a 30-32 mark in the playoffs.Cuban could not be reached for comment.

Nelson said other candidates could still be considered. Jeff Van Gundy is one of the bigger names available, but he reportedly has no interest in coaching next season.

The Mavs could wait to see if Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni leaves his post, although it appears he has sights set on the Bulls opening.

“We’re not disclosing or discounting anything at this point,” Nelson said as he leads the search for the franchise’s ninth head coach.

Carlisle coached the Pistons for two seasons, from 2001-03, going 100-64 in the regular season and 12-15 in the playoffs. He also was named the 2001-02 NBA Coach of the Year.

He lasted two seasons after clashing with management in Detroit and was replaced by Larry Brown after the 2002-03 season. Donnie Walsh then hired him to take over the Pacers. He went 181-147 in four seasons, 18-17 in the playoffs.

His best season at Indiana was his first. In 2003-04 the Pacers posted a franchise best 61-21 record and reached the Eastern Conference finals.

In Indiana, Carlisle had to manage volatile players, including Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson. He’ll always be connected with the brawl in Detroit, perceived as the beginning of the end for Carlisle with the Pacers.

He stepped down after four seasons in which he said he realized it was time for a new voice, similar to Johnson’s end.

Carlisle’s reputation is that of a hard-working, demanding head coach with an emphasis on defense. There’s some thought that Carlisle’s rigid style, which some say wears on players, might be too similar to Johnson.