Playing careerCarlisle was born October 27, 1959 raised in Lisbon, New York. He graduated from Worcester Academy and played two years of college basketball at the University of Maine from 1979 to 1981 before transferring to the University of Virginia in 1982, where he co-captained the Cavaliers of the coach Terry Holland to the Final Four in 1984. In his college years he averaged 12.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
NBAAfter graduating that same year, he was drafted by the Boston Celtics (23rd pick in the third round), where he played alongside Larry Bird. With the Celtics under coach K.C. Jones he won the NBA championship in 1986 against the Houston Rockets and lost in the NBA Finals in 1985 and 1987 to the Los Angeles Lakers. From 1984 to 1987 he averaged 2.2 points, 1.0 assists and 0.8 rebounds per game in a limited reserve role. Carlisle then played for Bill Musselman's Albany Patroons, and was then signed as a free agent by the New York Knicks under coach Rick Pitino, where he played alongside future star Patrick Ewing. In 1989, Carlisle played in 5 games with the New Jersey Nets under Bill Fitch.
Coaching careerLater in 1989, he accepted an assistant coaching position with the Nets, where he spent five seasons under Bill Fitch and Chuck Daly. In 1994, Carlisle joined the assistant coaching staff with the Portland Trail Blazers under coach P. J. Carlesimo, where he spent three seasons.
In 1997, Rick Carlisle joined the Indiana Pacers organization as an assistant coach under his former teammate, Larry Bird. During his time as Pacers assistant coach, he helped the Pacers to two of their best seasons ever. First, in 1997-98, the Pacers stretched the Chicago Bulls to the limit, narrowly losing the deciding seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals to the eventual NBA champion. Then, in 1999-2000, the Pacers made the NBA Finals for the first time, ultimately losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. Bird stepped down as coach, and pushed for Carlisle to be selected as his replacement, but Pacers team president Donnie Walsh gave the job to Isiah Thomas.
Detroit PistonsDetroit Pistons to be their new head coach. In two seasons as Pistons' head coach with players like Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Mehmet Okur and Tayshaun Prince, Carlisle led them to consecutive 50-32 records (.610) with Central Division titles and playoff appearances, and was named Coach of the Year in 2002. However, the Pistons fired Carlisle after the 2002-03 season with a year remaining on his contract and hired Larry Brown. Friction between Carlisle and team ownership was cited as one of the primary reasons for the firing. Ironically, Carlisle's Pistons had just dispatched Brown's Philadelphia 76ers in the conference semifinals.
Indiana Pacers2003-04 season, Carlisle was re-hired by the Indiana Pacers—but this time, as its head coach (Isiah Thomas had been fired, almost immediately after Larry Bird was brought back as the new President of Basketball Operations). In his first season, Carlisle led the Pacers to the Central Division title and NBA's best regular-season record (61-21; 74.4%). In the playoffs, the team eliminated both the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, before losing to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. In that year he was nominated coach for the All-Star Game. In 2005, the Pacers roster was decimated by injuries (most notably, those of Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley), and suspensions (due to the Pacers–Pistons brawl attributed to Ron Artest at the Palace of Auburn Hills). Carlisle was still able to rally the Pacers to the NBA Playoffs that season, though. As the sixth seed, they again defeated the Boston Celtics in the first round, before being defeated once again by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion, the Pistons.
After the Pacers finished the 2006-07 season with a 35-47 record (missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997), Carlisle's tenure as head coach ended; it is unclear whether he voluntarily resigned, was fired, or was pushed to resign. In four seasons with the Indiana Pacers, Carlisle compiled a 181-147 record. On June 12, 2007, Carlisle announced that he would also resign from his position as Executive Vice-president of the Pacers. After leaving Indiana, Carlisle worked as a studio analyst for ESPN before signing with the Dallas Mavericks as its new head coach.
Dallas MavericksOn May 9, 2008 Carlisle signed a four-year deal with Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks, replacing Avery Johnson. He led them to a 50-32 record including a first round win against the San Antonio Spurs. They would lose to the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals. The next year he coached the Mavs to a 55-27 record, first in Southwest Division and second in the West, but lost in the first round to San Antonio. In 2010, Dallas won sixteen of its first twenty games in a competitive Western Conference.
On May 8, 2011, he coached the Mavericks to a sweep of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.
On May 25, 2011, he coached the Mavericks to a 4-1 series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, the first conference finals victory of his coaching career.