Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks’ Carlisle has talk with mentor Bill Fitch

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn’t talking to the media during the playoffs, but that’s too late for Rockets fans.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn’t talking to the media during the playoffs, but that’s too late for Rockets fans. AP

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle received an email early Saturday morning from someone who is extremely important in his life.

It was from Bill Fitch.

Back in 1989, Fitch was coaching the New Jersey Nets and Carlisle was one of the players in training camp trying to make the team. Suddenly, one of the biggest and most important shifts in Carlisle’s life occurred.

“He cut me and offered me a coaching job in the same phone call,” Carlisle said before Saturday’s playoff opener against the Houston Rockets. “And looking back it was one of the most important days of my life.

“I’m forever grateful to him. He’s like a family member, like a second dad, and a man of great, great wisdom.”

Fitch told a Houston TV reporter that Carlisle was like the son he never had.

“There were times when I was working for him when I didn’t quite feel like his son,” Carlisle said. “But those times always made me better as a professional.

“I spoke to him [Friday] night. I got an email from him at 1:04 a.m. and I asked him, I called him, and I said, ‘In the fall of 1989 when I was slugging it out trying to make the team in New Jersey for training camp did you ever think that you would be sending an email on your phone to somebody at 1:04 a.m.?’ And he laughed.”

Back in 1996, Fitch was voted one of the top 10 coaches in NBA history.

But Carlisle, who was an assistant on Fitch’s staff with the Nets from 1989-92, is miffed that his mentor is not in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I don’t know if any coach has ever done this, but he took five lottery franchises from the lottery to playoff success or championship success, or conference finals or some level of significant higher level, and in the process of doing that you absorb some losses,” Carlisle said. “But he’s third all-time in games coached and in ’96 or ’97 he was voted one of the top 10 coaches of all-time.

“So we’ve got to keep banging away at the people at the Hall of Fame to get them to understand how important his contribution was to the game.”

Cuban not talking

Owner Mark Cuban said he won’t be giving interviews during the playoffs. It’s a trend he said he’s done since he started it in 2011 — the year the Mavericks won their only NBA title.

Cuban also became a hot topic Saturday when an article released by Grantland quoted him as saying some unkind things about the Houston Rockets.

“There’s no more predictable team than the Rockets,” Cuban told Grantland. “You know exactly what they’re gonna do. But [Rockets guard] James Harden is so good. That’s what analytics have begot. Right? Predictability.”

In the article, Cuban went on to say: “If you know what the percentages are, in the playoffs, you have time to counter them. Whether you’re good enough to do it is another question. Because they are very talented, and James Harden, I think, is the MVP. Because that’s not a very good team over there.”

In his defense, Cuban said the interview was done three weeks ago.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @dwainprice