Rick Carlisle: "Pitino made me consider the possibility of being a coach"
What does Detroit need to improve this season?
Rick Carlisle: We needed to strengthen the point guard position. The way the games are being played now, with the chance to set a zone defense, you need more players able to shoot from outside.
How do you want your team to play?
RC: What I really like is a strong defense and an unselfish team-oriented offense with a lot of passes.
You have quite a defensive approach to the game in Detroit, don't you?
RC: I know what you mean... The Bad Boys and stuff. The fact is that we want to find our own identity. We want to compete without being selfish on the offensive end. Our goal is to imitate the Sixers or the Nets and reach the NBA Finals. We already went beyond our own expectations this year. If only Rebraca wasn't injured in the series against Boston...
That's a good player.
RC: He could become a very important player. He is very strong and his fundamentals are improving. He got adjusted to a faster game and now he can keep on improving.
Have you changed your mind about European players?
RC: In the NBA we know they are very talented and that's why they play here. Now it is a lot easier for them because the NBA has become something more familiar. You also have to give credit to the coaches in Europe because they are doing a great job.
What's the main difference between European and American players?
RC: Europeans are more ready for a number of reasons, notably because in the United States the time to work is limited. In Europe you can improve your shooting and other skills you don't have time to in America.
What will be the role of Mehmet Okur in the team?
RC: He is a big man that brings a lot of possibilities as far as playing outside -because he shoots the ball well- or in the post. He has good fundamentals and mental toughness. He is young but has proved he can face anyone.
Rebraca, Okur... Is it better to sign a European player than a player coming from High School?
RC: Some kids have proved they are ready for the next level. You have Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant. In their case, the results have been excellent. Others, however, need some time to adapt themselves. Unfortunately, there are some others kids that declare themselves eligible and are left in a very sad situation after not being drafted.
Tayshaun Prince was your pick this year... Was it a surprise for you to find him available at No. 23?
RC: Yes, I like his versatility. He is the second best three-point shooter in the history of Kentucky. That means he can play outside. Besides, he is good putting the ball on the floor and passing it. He is also the fifth best shot blocker all-time in Kentucky and that will help us inside. In addition to it, you have to say he stayed four years in college and is already a mature player.
The best coaches in the NBA last season are former players: Byron Scott, Phil Jackson, yourself... Why?
RC: That is nothing new in the NBA. What about Lenny Wilkens, Pat Riley or Don Nelson? That's something that will never change, but, at the same time, you have some coaches without that experience like Jeff Van Gundy or Mike Fratello.
And Larry Bird?
RC: Now he must get more involved in the new franchise in Charlotte. If his group succeeds at getting the new franchise... But I'd rather not talk about that! He is very competitive, a winner as a player and as a coach.
When will there be a European coach in the NBA?
RC: I think it is quite possible that happens very soon because the level in Europe is great.
And what about you? Would you like to coach in Europe?
RC: Some coaches, like George Karl, have already done that. I've never thought about it, but it's just one more possibility. My visit to the Clinic of Eivissa was my first one to Spain and the people is wonderful. But right now my mind is on the Detroit Pistons, although it may be a good experience in one or two years time.
What is your team?
RC: I feel very close to the Pistons because this is the franchise that has given me the chance to be a head coach, but I has good experienced with the Celtics, which selected me in the NBA Draft and gave me the chance to win a ring, the Knicks and the Nets.
What is like to play in the Madison?
It is the most important sports building in the world and a very especial place. To beat the Knicks there, even today, is very especial.
You were coached by Rick Pitino there, weren't you?
RC: Yes, my experience with him was the one that make me consider the possibility of being a coach. His basketball is very different. The only thing similar to his basketball is what the Nets did this season.
Everything changes, not only basketball... What were you doing on September 11?
RC: I was in a bus in Michigan during a Pistons promoting campaign. I felt a great sorrow and I was very affected for the families of the people that died there.
Can anyone beat the United States in Indianapolis?
RC: No, I don't think so.
But Lithuania was one basket away from doing it so in Sydney?
RC: Yes, but now the championship is played in the United States. We are the favorites and, being the hosts, there will be no room for relax.
Is this the first time that the USA National Team has been designed as a team and not as an All-Star?
RC: Maybe what you say is true because some of the best players -Shaq, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett- have decided not to be in Indianapolis. It is a mix of young people with veterans.
Ben Wallace will be there... What is your relationship with him?
RC: Fine, I hope (Laughs). He is one of the players with more work ethic I've ever been with. He is great defender, but, at the same time, he is giving up a lot of hours to improve his offensive skills.
Studying Psychology in college must have been useful for you...
RC: My job is very much alike to that of a psychologist. The role of the NBA coach is 80 per cent management of human resources and 20 per cent technical work.
Who will win the NBA?
RC: The Detroit Pistons! Although you have to beat the Lakers to be the champion and that is not going to be easy. They are the favorites. Right now everybody is thinking about how to compete with O'Neal. That is the big problem.
Is he that dominant?
RC: If you have O'Neal on your team, you have to adapt your game to him. He is an excellent player. He weighs almost 330 pounds but is able to run, jump, pass the ball... Besides, I know him and he is a great guy.
What will Yao Ming be able to do against him?
RC: I've only seen him in tape once and I think it will take him some time to adjust to the NBA, bet he could become a good player. International players in this year's draft have all skills, but none will reach the level of Pau Gasol.
Alex Gozalbo is a basketball writer for Gigantes. The interview was made during the International Clinic of Eivissa (Spain).
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