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Pacers, head coach Rick Carlisle agree to multiyear contract extension

Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle speaks to the media during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Most of the Indiana Pacers key players are locked up with multiyear contracts.

Now their coach is, too. On Thursday, team officials announced Rick Carlisle agreed to a contract extension that will allow him to continue to preside over a rebuilding project that began midway through the 2021-22 season.

“It goes without saying that coach Carlisle is one of the most creative and successful coaches in the history of the league, so there was never a question that he continues to be the right person to lead our team,” said Kevin Pritchard, Pacers president of basketball operations, in a statement announcing the deal. “His ties to this organization and community run deep, his guidance and leadership are invaluable to our players and staff, and we’re looking forward to working together for years to come as we build something special for our fans.”

Carlisle returned to the Pacers as head coach in 2021 after spending four seasons with Indiana from 2003-07. He also served as an assistant with Indiana during Larry Bird’s three-year coaching tenure, a span that included the Pacers’ only NBA Finals appearance in 2000.

The 63-year-old Carlisle improved to 897-793 in his 22nd season with Wednesday night’s 143-120 rout of the Washington Wizards. He spent 13 of those seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, who he led to the 2010-11 NBA championship, and his first two seasons as a head coach with the Detroit Pistons.

“My first head coaching game was actually in Dallas when they opened the American Airlines Center in 2001,” Carlisle recalled before Wednesday’s game. “Kind of ironic since I ended up being there for many, many years.”

And while he — and the Pacers — spent most of this past offseason talking about the need to improve defensively, it was the offense that stole the show in the season opener.

All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton and backup Andrew Nembhard each had double-doubles, free agent acquisition Bruce Brown scored 24 points and made a career-high six 3-pointers as the Pacers produced the franchise’s highest scoring total on opening night. Indiana made 20 3s, three short of the single-game record, and fell two points short of tying the franchise scoring record for a home game.