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Emotional Rick Carlisle moved to tears as Dallas Mavericks honor former coach's 13-year tenure

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Rick Carlisle can't hold back tears in his return to Dallas (2:25)

Rick Carlisle gets emotional as he is serenaded by fans after watching a heartfelt tribute video dedicated to his time as the Dallas Mavericks head coach. (2:25)

DALLAS -- Tears streamed down Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle's face after a tribute video honoring him played on the American Airlines Center video boards before Saturday night's game with the Dallas Mavericks.

It was the first time Carlisle had faced the Mavericks since the franchise's all-time winningest coach resigned last summer, ending a 13-year tenure highlighted by the team's only NBA championship in 2011.

"I wasn't expecting that," Carlisle said of being overcome by his emotions. "The only other time I've felt that kind of emotional moment was when we raised the banner the first game of the lockout-shortened season of '11-12. It was just the same kind of feeling. I was not expecting anything like that. It was a wonderful gesture, very much appreciated."

After Dallas' 132-105 victory, a long line of Mavericks coaches, executives and players exchanged hugs and pleasantries with Carlisle on the court. Dallas star Luka Doncic, whose relationship with Carlisle was often rocky, was one of the last and expressed his appreciation for his former coach.

"I've been with him my first three years and learned a lot of things," said Doncic, who had 32 points and 12 assists in the win. "He helped me in a way too, so it was a special moment. The tribute was special to him. You could see it, and he deserves it."

Prior to tipoff, it was clear Carlisle was focused on the game but that he also understood the uniqueness to the day overall.

"It's a little bit of an unusual day, but it's great to be back," he said.

Because his family still lives in the Dallas area, it was also a chance to visit at home as well as see people in the organization who meant a lot to him.

Carlisle resigned June 16, 10 days after Dallas lost its first-round playoff series to the LA Clippers for the second straight year and one day after the resignation of longtime team executive Donnie Nelson. In making his announcement, Carlisle said his departure was solely his decision.

A week later, Carlisle was hired by the Pacers to begin his second stint coaching them. He previously coached Indiana for four seasons, 2003-04 to 2006-07. His first Pacers team led the NBA in wins with 61 but lost the Eastern Conference finals to the Detroit Pistons. Carlisle's 199 Indiana wins are second to the 250 of Frank Vogel, now coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Carlisle cited his relationship with Nelson as being "very, very special."

Carlisle recommended Jason Kidd, who played on the Mavericks' championship team, to follow him as Dallas' coach.

"He's done a tremendous job," Carlisle said of Kidd. "His history here, as a player who was drafted here, a Hall of Fame player on a championship team here, I know the kind of warrior he is when it comes to winning and how smart he is. They're a major threat in the West."

Kidd offered some insight on his predecessor.

"He helped all of us achieve that one goal that we play for, and that was to win a championship," Kidd said. "Set the bar high for the next coach or coaches."

Carlisle led the Mavericks to the playoffs nine times and claimed two Southwest Division titles in addition to the 2011 NBA championship, when Dallas won the Finals in six games over the Miami Heat behind Dirk Nowitzki. Carlisle owns the Mavs franchise records for career regular-season games coached (1,033) and wins (555).

Saturday's game was the second and last this season between the interconference teams. When Dallas visited Indiana on Dec. 10, Carlisle tested positive for COVID-19 the day before and had to quarantine. The Pacers won 106-93 under assistant coach Lloyd Pierce.

Carlisle's first game as an NBA coach was in Dallas, coaching the Pistons in October 2001, in the inaugural game played at American Airlines Center.

"I do remember this other locker room," Carlisle said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.