Pacers coach Rick Carlisle texts with interim Colts coach Jeff Saturday, looks forward to watching it play out
"I’ve followed the whole thing this week pretty close because how could you not follow it? It’s such a fascinating situation. What he’s doing takes a tremendous amount of courage..."
Two weeks ago, Jeff Saturday was back in Indianapolis to celebrate one of his teammates. Tarik Glenn, a reliable left tackle the Colts drafted in Round 1 of the 1997 NFL Draft, was being celebrated as he entered the team’s Ring of Honor.
That brought the Ring of Honor members back together again and gave fans something to cheer about in what ultimately was a 17-16 home loss to the Washinton Commanders.
Before the game kicked off, the Colts have a relatively new tradition of having someone notable bang The Anvil at the corner of the stadium to get fans fired up.
On that day, Oct. 30, Saturday was asked to hammer The Anvil — and he did so while wearing a No. 78 jersey for Glenn, who played his entire career for the Colts (1997-2006).
Now two weeks later, Saturday will be on the sidelines with the Colts as the interim head coach.
It all happened so fast, officially agreeing to those responsibilities with Colts owner Jim Irsay by phone early Monday morning. Frank Reich was out and Saturday, who is beloved within the organization and by the fan base, is in.
Prior to the Pacers’ home win over the Toronto Raptors Saturday night, head coach Rick Carlisle offered an opening statement before taking questions. It was a busy week for Indy coaches.
On Friday, the Indiana Fever named Christie Sides as its next head coach. And then hours later, they won the draft lottery for the first time in franchise history. So, at long last, they hold the top overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft.
“I want to congratulate the Fever on winning the lottery,” Carlisle began. “So I guess they now have the No. 1 pick and the No. 7 pick. I want to congratulate coach Christie Sides for becoming the new Fever head coach. Pretty exciting time for her and the franchise with the lottery and all that. A lot of good things going on in their world.”
Carlisle wasn’t done yet.
Like Saturday, Carlisle played in the league where he now coaches. And he, too, has taken up leadership responsibilities. Carlisle is the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association.
He’s worked as an assistant or head coach in the NBA since 1989 and so he’s experienced just about everything, including working for a first-time head coach. It’s how he was hired by the Pacers in the first place, back in 1997.
“I also want to just mention that I was able to briefly exchange messages with Jeff Saturday today,” he said. “I got his number and wished him well. It’s a very unique situation what he’s done, what he’s taken on. I’ve followed the whole thing this week pretty close because how could you not follow it? It’s such a fascinating situation. What he’s doing takes a tremendous amount of courage to step into that situation. But I’ve seen it work before.
“I came here with Larry Bird in 1997 and there were a lot of doubters and a lot of detractors, and all he did was become the Coach of the Year his first year. I think the way that Jeff has represented himself this past week has been really impressive. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, it’s going to be one of the most-watched games in the history of the NFL. But I’ve been thoroughly impressed with him and his approach to the entire situation. And his enthusiasm coupled with his humility. I wish him well.
“I was a Colts fan when I was here last time — both last times — and instantly became a Colts fan again and got to know Frank (Reich) a little bit. And Frank is a highly, highly respected coach and did a lot of great things during his tenure. This is a really interesting situation and I wish him the best.”
When asked about their communication, Saturday told Larra Overton “When (Carlisle) reached out, it meant the world to me.”
At 6-6, the Pacers, who are going through a rebuild, have more wins than the 3-5-1 Colts.
The Colts are not having a good season and they haven’t played good football. The defense has been good enough, but the offense has not been productive; they’re averaging less than 15 points per game, worst in the league.
So yes, this is unconventional. It’s also midseason with eight games left, beginning Sunday in Las Vegas.
Saturday doesn’t have to come in and be a genius; he won’t pretend to be. Perhaps now more than ever, the job of a professional head coach is to manage people.
To manage egos. To lead. To handle situations. To get the best out of everyone and put his players and staff in positions to be successful.
Saturday can and will do that. Then, it’s about relying on your staff.
To Carlisle’s point, Bird hired a smart staff and empowered them: Dirk Harter with the defense, Carlisle with offense.
Bird, a Hall of Famer, obviously knew the game well and was competitive as they come. Now, he had a full season season, including a training camp, and basketball rosters are much smaller than football. Bird did it. So did Steve Kerr with Golden State.
I have no doubt Saturday will provide the leadership and guidance this team has needed. He already crushed his interviews with local reporters being authentically himself. That’s all he knows.
Now you cannot say the Colts aren’t interesting. Because this dynamic is fascinating, like Carlisle said. And we all will be watching, Carlisle included.
From banging The Anvil to leading the Colts in just two weeks.
The spotlight is now on Saturday.