Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle calss for a timeout during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Dallas.

Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle calss for a timeout during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Dallas.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Collette Flanagan grew up as an NBA fan, played point guard at Dallas' Kimball High School and later even played pickup games with her son, Clinton.

She professes, though, that when Rick Carlisle emailed her last month she had no idea he still coached her home city's team, the Mavericks, until she Googled to check.

"A lot has changed," she said, "since I lost Clinton."

Clinton, 25, was shot and killed in 2013 by a Dallas police officer. Of the seven bullets that struck unarmed Clinton, one entered his back and another pierced an armpit, indicating that at least one of his hands was raised.

Since then, former IBM executive Collette has dedicated her life to leading Dallas-based Mothers Against Police Brutality, which she founded to unite and give voice to mothers who have lost children to police violence.

Not coincidentally, Carlisle's email arrived within days after the world, on May 25, watched George Floyd die while being pinned face-down onto a Minneapolis street by a police officer.

Carlisle explained to Flanagan that the Mavericks organization wanted to partner with a local organization to deepen dialogue and affect change in the fight against racial injustice.

"We hit it off immediately," Flanagan said. "He was very straightforward in wanting to work with MAPB and dig in and learn about police brutality locally. Where he lives. Where his players live. I thought that was very impressive.

"He has done that and more."

On Thursday night, the NBA season recommenced here in what has been dubbed The Bubble on the Disney World campus, ending a four-plus-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Twenty-two teams, including the Mavericks, are scheduled to play 88 seeding games. Provided virus-control protocols continue to work, there then will be a 16-team postseason and the crowning of a champion in October.

The setting and circumstances are oddly historic, with the bubble as a global stage amid the still-raging pandemic and ongoing racial justice and equality protests occurring across America.

The NBA, with an estimated 80% of its membership being men of color, intends to utilize this platform to call for social change: Individually. Collectively. Unitedly.

The words "Black Lives Matter" are featured prominently on the three arena courts on which teams are playing on the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus. For the first four days of the restart, many players are replacing their last name on their jerseys with social justice messages.

"There's an enormous rock that has just got to keep getting chipped away at," Carlisle said. "Four-plus centuries' worth of insidious events. At the heart of it is the fact that this is a moral issue."

The Mavericks franchise is uniquely positioned to leverage its stature and visibility, nationally and especially in North Texas, to make a tangible difference.

Carlisle is the 15th-year president of the NBA Coaches Association. Cynthia Marshall is the league's only Black female CEO. Owner Mark Cuban is, well, Mark Cuban.

"You have three people who are willing to listen," fifth-year Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley said. "You have three people who are willing to coordinate and collaborate with one another. People talk about 'The Movement,' but these three have gone into action.

"I do believe they have become a model for how we go about creating change. You have to have the conversations. People say it has to start within your home. Well, the Mavericks is our home family. So we're starting it at home."


On the night of March 11, as the Mavericks played Denver at American Airlines Center, the NBA season was postponed "until further notice" when it was learned that Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

For the Mavericks organization, the next two months mostly consisted of pandemic-related community outreach, making sure players had equipment to train at home and league-wide Zoom meetings to evaluate season-resumption scenarios.

Floyd's death immediately changed intra-Mavericks communications. During a lengthy team Zoom call, Mavericks players and coaches of color shared raw testimonials about times they experienced racism. The deaths of Floyd and other police brutality victims stirred deep-seeded hurt and anguish.

Meanwhile, dialogue between Carlisle and fellow NBA coaches Lloyd Pierce of Atlanta, J.B. Bickerstaff of Cleveland and former coach Stan Van Gundy gelled into realization that the coaches association needed to take decisive, collective action.

Carlisle says that within eight hours a Zoom call convened with all 30 NBA head coaches.

"This had gone too far," he said. "Not that it hadn't been going too far, but this was really the last straw for so many people."

Pierce spoke passionately during the call. Coaches appointed him to chair a committee, which it later named NBA Coaches for Racial Injustice that included Bickerstaff; Van Gundy; Doc Rivers of the Clippers; Gregg Popovich of San Antonio; Steve Kerr of Golden State; Brett Brown of Philadelphia; and Quin Snyder of Utah.

On June 1, the coaches association issued an emphatic statement, signed by every head coach and assistant, decrying recent "shameful, inhumane and intolerable" police brutality, racial profiling and weaponizing of racism.

"We lead groups of men, most of whom are African American, and we see, hear and share their feelings of disgust, frustration, helplessness and anger," the statement read in part. It concluded with a vow to work with "local leaders, officials and law enforcement agencies to create positive change in our communities."

Nationally, the coaches association partnered with the Obama Foundation and Bryan Stevenson, a renowned attorney, social justice activist and 1995 founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Pierce drove to Montgomery, Ala., to meet with Stevenson. An ensuing Zoom call with Stevenson and NBA coaches that was scheduled for 30 minutes lasted nearly two hours.

In Dallas, the Mavericks utilized their platform and influence publicly and privately.

On May 31, Cuban and Mavericks players Dwight Powell, Justin Jackson, Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber joined a public Pray For Justice & Against Racism gathering outside Dallas Police Headquarters.

On June 9, the morning of Floyd's funeral, Marshall and Cuban co-hosted in Victory Plaza a semi-public event called "Courageous Conversations," where speakers included Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall, DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and Mavericks assistant coaches Mosley and Stephen Silas.

Cuban opened the dialogue with a plea: "I need all of us to really open up and talk to each other, even when it's difficult, even when it's not something we're comfortable with, particularly those of you who look like me, the white people. Because it's hard to discuss race when you're white."

Behind the scenes, Flanagan privately met with Carlisle, Mosley, Silas and Powell. That began a series of separate meetings in which Flanagan and the Mavericks foursome met with Hall, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax.

"As a citizen of Dallas, I felt was important to see firsthand just what was going on behind that curtain and how things are being dealt with and the process in which things can be dealt with in the future," Powell told The News. "I learned a lot about my own kind-of ignorance about the way things work in Dallas and the power structure and the way things are set up.

"And also the battle there's always going to be - whether it's to pass legislation or pursue certain efforts when it comes to justice. It's not always as simple as it should be. Trying to get a grasp for where pressure can be applied to help those that are trying to fight for justice."

Flanagan through the years has fought and won her share of battles with Dallas municipal and law-enforcement leaders, pushing for re-examination of past fatal police shootings, increased transparency in current investigations and changes in police training, among other initiatives.

Walking into those same City Hall and Dallas Police Headquarters offices with the Mavericks, Flanagan said, "made things move a little more quickly.

"I think when the powers that be see that many people, not just the Mavericks, are choosing the right side of history and are willing to be uncomfortable for this fight against police brutality and I think they have to sit up and take notice.

"And then of course we had the awful perfect storm of the George Floyd killing. I think those things just meeting up was the right ingredient for getting things done in this moment. I'm very glad Rick contacted me. Because it was the right moment."

Carlisle points to a national initiative by Campaign Zero called 8 Can't Wait - proposed police policies that are designed to reduce brutality deaths. Carlisle says Dallas has enacted four.

"We're working with the mayor and Chief Hall and Mr. Broadnax on getting the other four in place," he said.

On the broader challenges of social justice, racial inequality and systemic racism, Carlisle is unflinching.

"Is this a daunting task? Yes. Do we have the stomach for it? Yes. We're in this for the long haul."


Here in the bubble, Carlisle and his 21 peers, as always, are in teaching mode, except now Black history is part of the daily lesson plan.

Proud history. Painful history.

At Stevenson's suggestion, Carlisle and other coaches here have cited daily entries in the Equal Justice Initiative calendar, which notes anniversaries of racial injustice incidents throughout American history.

Carlisle opens every media interview by reading aloud and expounding upon that day's calendar entry. For team meetings, one player, coach or support-staff member per day is assigned to research and lead discussion of that day's calendar topics.

Players and coaches say many of the discussions have been heartfelt and thought-provoking.

"These guys have really been digging in and finding out what really happened," Mosley said. "And then you can translate it to what is happening today. It's really getting educated. It's really figuring out what's going on. To me, that's where it starts."

New Orleans' Alvin Gentry, one of the NBA's six Black head coaches, led his Pelicans into Thursday's first NBA game in four-plus months, against Utah and fittingly, Gobert.

On a basketball court that emphatically states, in large letters, that Black Lives Matter.

"I think it speaks volumes about where we're trying to get to as a country," Gentry said. "Obviously we have a long way to go, but it has to start somewhere. The lines of communication have to start somewhere. We've got a great venue to do it. We've got a great platform to do it on here."

When the Mavericks restart their season Friday night against Houston, regained NBA fan Flanagan says she will watch and cheer.

Over the years, her efforts to, in her words, gain justice for her only son have fallen short, with a federal grand jury determining in 2017 that the officer who shot Clinton, after responding to a disturbance call at an East Oak Cliff apartment complex, did not use excessive force.

"I will never stop," Collette vowed that day.

Now she says she feels as though she has some wonderful teammates who feel her anguish and are fighting alongside her.

"As Rick and Dwight expressed, there are a lot of players who have concerns about police brutality," she said. "There are a lot of Black players on the Mavericks team who, when they take that uniform off, they are not a Maverick.

"They are a Black man. And they run the same risk of any other Black man of running into the wrong cop who could take his life in a heartbeat."

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