Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers president
The Pacers announced the reorganization of the team's front office Wednesday. Team President Larry Bird is stepping down and Donnie Walsh is returning to the team to take over. Kevin Pritchard will be general manager.
"I feel sad [about] the announcement that Larry's gonna be leaving us. He could have stayed as long as he wants," said Pacers owner Herb Simon.
"I think this is a great day for the Pacers organization." With that, Larry Bird publicly told the Pacers good-bye. In leaving, he expressed no regret, but a real love for the current team.
"I had 13 kids, at the end of the year, 14, that I really believe in," he said.
There were no visible emotions from Bird, but he delivered plenty of laughter - like when asked if someday buying the Pacers from current owner Herb Simon is in his plans.
"It's according to how much Herbie leaves me in the will," Bird said, to much laughter.
He even took some shots at himself.
"I still think Lance [Stephenson] is our best player," Bird said.
Stephenson played very little this season, but does get plenty of minutes in summer league in Florida.
"These next two weeks will be a great time for me, because I love the summer league. I get to see my boy Lance play every minute of every game," he said, laughing.
Bird told reporters he had some health issues including back and shoulder injuries that were becoming distractions.
"I don't think it should be a surprise because last year I felt the franchise was going in the right direction," Bird said, adding that he'd spoken with Simon about leaving over the past few years. "It's time. Sometimes it's just the right time to go."
"I've been honored to be here for nine years and three years of coaching. When Donnie left it was gonna be one of my biggest challenges ever," Bird said, noting that they made it through the tough times because "the company as a whole, we stuck together."
The 55-year-old Bird was the Pacers coach from 1997-2000, taking the team to its only NBA Finals appearance that final year, before returning to the front office in 2003. He took full control as president of basketball decisions after the 2007-08 season, when Donnie Walsh left to become the New York Knicks' president.
Bird recently was named the NBA Executive of the Year after building a tough, young team that lost to eventual champion Miami in six games in the playoffs.
The former Indiana State star won three MVP awards and three NBA titles during his Hall of Fame career with Boston.
As the laughs died down and the last question was answered, Bird had the final word: "See you in the next lifetime."
With a handshake from his boss, Bird glides into a future that is for now out of the spotlight.
Press release from Pacers:
The Indiana Pacers announced Wednesday changes in the basketball front office. Larry Bird, President of Basketball Operations for the last nine years, will step down, former team President Donnie Walsh returns as President of Basketball Operations, and Kevin Pritchard will be the General Manager, replacing David Morway, who resigned Tuesday.
"I fully understand Larry's decision to step away and can't thank him enough for what he has done for the Pacers," said Pacers Owner Herb Simon. "I can't ask for a better transition at this time than to have Donnie back to work with Kevin in overseeing the basketball side."
"I'm going to take some time off and evaluate what I will do in the future," said Bird. "This has nothing to do with any conflict or anything else, it's just time. I considered leaving last year, so this shouldn't be a surprise. I'm proud of what we've accomplished, I like the position this team is in and with Kevin and Donnie, the basketball side won't miss a beat."
Walsh left the Pacers in 2008 to serve as President, Basketball Operations, for the New York Knicks for two years. He was a consultant with the Knicks last season. Walsh was the Pacers' General Manager from 1986-88 before becoming the franchise president from 1988-2008.
"After discussing this with Herb and Larry, I'm very comfortable in coming back and doing whatever I can to help the Pacers continue their return to prominence in the NBA," said Walsh. "This is home in so many ways and I couldn't be more proud about coming back and being part of this great franchise again."
Pritchard joined the Pacers prior to last season as Director of Player Personnel. The native Hoosier (born in Bloomington, Ind.) was Portland's general manager from 2007-10 prior to joining the Pacers.
"This is a great opportunity," said Pritchard. "To be able to work with someone like Donnie Walsh, whose record with the Pacers and Knicks speaks for itself, and to continue to build on what Larry has done here is a great honor."
There will be no other management changes in Pacers Sports & Entertainment with Simon continuing as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Jim Morris as President and Rick Fuson as Chief Operating Officer.