It was among the most pleasant firings in recent memory.

The Pacers fired Rick Carlisle as head coach last week, and Carlisle basically agreed with them.

Indiana cratered in the second half of the season, losing 11 straight at one point, and failed to make the playoffs. The much-ballyhooed trade that sent Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson to the Warriors for Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Ike Diogu was a flop for the Pacers and a godsend for Golden State.

And Carlisle, who won 55 percent of his games in Indiana and made the playoffs in three of four seasons, was the fall guy. But he thanked the Pacers for giving him the opportunity and the team offered a job as its executive vice president of basketball operations.

"This team is in reasonable health and a training camp away from making significant strides. That's a fact," Carlisle said by phone after the announcement Wednesday. "I think there's reason for optimism here. There's a lot of good young players who have had a chance to grow through some difficult times, and I think that bodes well for the future."

He was done in this season by injuries, most notably to Jermaine O'Neal and Marquis Daniels, whom Carlisle had envisioned as a do-everything guard who could initiate offense at the point. But Carlisle was really jolted by the Brawl at Auburn Hills, from which the Pacers never really have recovered as a franchise. They've been floundering ever since, trying to win back a fan base that has rejected them.

No heat has come yet on team president Larry Bird, whose record is spotty at best since moving into the front office after coaching. But Bird made sure that Carlisle, his former Celtics teammate, got a soft landing. Even Carlisle doesn't know what an executive vice president of basketball operations does.

"I guess it's a substantial title," he said. "We'll see if there's substantial duties or if it even works for them. If it doesn't, I'm not going to push myself on this thing. But they said they'd be willing to talk about it."

Yet Carlisle may well take the executive job, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking, believing that he can learn even more about the game by looking at it from a front-office perspective for a year or two.

As for his replacement on the bench, it wouldn't surprise if the Pacers take a long look at Mark Jackson, the former point guard who is now an analyst for the Yes Network and for ABC. He's a favorite of team CEO Donnie Walsh, who twice traded for him while the team's general manager.