Starting his third season with the Pacers, Rick Carlisle has a 105-59 record with the squad, after compiling a 100-64 record in two years with the Detroit Pistons. Carlisle spoke with the national media during a teleconference call last week. Q:
What will having Ron Artest back in the lineup allow you to do this year that you couldn't do last year?
One thing it allows us to do is put Steve Jackson at the two position. When we signed him a year or so ago, it was with the intention of playing him mostly at the shooting guard spot, which gives him a size advantage against just about everyone in the league, and also he's a guy that shoots the ball well and with range. That's one thing that it does. Another thing is that it puts another top 10 player in the league back on the floor for us back at the three spot. I'm talking about Ron ... and that certainly helps. And I've always felt since I've been here that the combination of Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal creates a really significant force for our team. They're kind of the two guys that this team is built around. Having him back we hope is going to have a lot of positive influence on our season.
Talk about the depth of the Eastern Conference.
If you look at the East, just about every team on paper has improved. There are some teams out there nobody is talking about, which I know are going to be much better. I know Orlando is going to be a much better and more consistent team this year because defensively they're going to be better. Boston is young but very deep and very talented. Detroit is going to be great. Miami is going to be great. We've played New Jersey already once in the exhibition season. With Kidd, Carter and Jefferson, they have three top-three players at all three of those positions. You can't say that about many teams in the East or the West. They're going to be really good. Washington is going to be a playoff team. Philly I think is going to be back there. New York has improved - they have Eddie Curry. Milwaukee's got Bogut. And Cleveland is going to be much improved not only because of the moves that they've made to get guys like Hughes, Donyell Marshall, they've resigned Ilgauskus, but Damon Jones is a really solid acquisition and Mike Brown is going to make them a better team defensively. I haven't even talked about Charlotte and Atlanta. Those teams have gotten significantly better through the draft and somewhat through the free agencies.
Who is the best strategist in the league right now as far as a coach?
As far as a coach? Oh gosh. There's just so many good ones that's hard to answer. I will give you five names that I think are the best of the best. Gregg Popovich is certainly up there, Larry Brown, Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson, I think Jeff Van Gundy is a great coach ... You know, there are many, many, many. Maybe more than ever, the depth of the coaching talent pool is really strong as well. Flip Saunders is a great coach and is a very sophisticated offensive coach. Stan Van Gundy, I really love the things that they do down there, and the things that they run.