Lightning rod New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey wrote today that Larry Bird will not return next year as Pacers head honcho “regardless of how the 26-18 team finishes.” He knows this is a certainty, he says, due to being informed by “someone very much in the know.”
“He has definitely decided not to return,” the source asserted.
Hired six seasons ago as Donnie Walsh’s eventual replacement, Bird was paid $5 million per for the first five. It appeared he was about to retire to his home in Naples, Fla., after last season. However, a strong finish, topped by a promising first round playoff showing against the Bulls, and an appeal from owner Herb Simon to stick around convinced him otherwise, in spite of having his salary slashed to $1 million.
A handshake promise was given Simon last summer by Bird that he would consider re-upping for another season, but that has been ruled out. It’s believed Simon is aware of such and has a petite list of prospective replacement candidates.
Walsh, I’m told, is eager to get back to work full time for a team as soon as his consultancy contract with the Knicks expires, yet it’s doubtful he would be rehired by Simons.
“They’re just not as close as they once were,” claimed a source.
The firm belief by those with a pulse on the situation: Simon is more apt to choose a marquee name like Reggie Miller or Chris Mullin as opposed to promoting the people on site, general manager David Moray or personnel director Kevin Pritchard.
Look for Walsh to resurface as a reasonable contender for jobs in Orlando or Washington should Otis Smith be fired and/or Ernie Grunfeld not be rehired.
If Bird were to step down, it wouldn’t exactly be a shock. He was reportedly reluctant to return last season, and likely has in his own mind fulfilled his core mission of the post-Brawl franchise reclamation project: returning the franchise to respectability and leaving it healthy, both on the court and the balance sheet.
UPDATE: As for Reggie becoming GM, I don’t see it as the best move. I wrote about it — poorly, if I recall — a while back when the idea first surfaced. Here’s an excerpt.
being an Indiana legend could be as problematic as it is helpful. Reggie would get a pass on some blunders because of who he is. But as the blunders added up (and they would … even great GMs have a sizable list of misfires), he would likely feel a lot more pressure to fix them than a guy like, Daryl Morey, or even Chris Mullin, would.
Conseco is colloquially referred to as “The House Reggie Built.” How do you deal with that? That puts a ton of pressure on a man to make things right. And perhaps the worst thing to do after you make a mistake as a GM is try to instantly fix it.