A few weeks ago, NBA Hall of Fame scribe Peter Vecsey reported that this was definitely Larry Bird’s last season running the Pacers. Bird had already made up his mind, Vecsey’s source(s) told him. Larry denied the report, however, claiming that he had yet to make up his mind.
Now, Ken Berger of CBS Sports is backing up Vecsey’s report and it now seems overwhelmingly obvious that Bird is in fact done in Indiana’s front office.
Pacers president Larry Bird wants owner Herb Simon to plan for his departure after the season and has told several friends in the NBA that he’s decided to leave, two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Thursday.
Bird, 55, had an agreement with Simon to remain team president through the end of the season and decide his future then. The Hall of Famer has been clear in conversations with friends that Simon does not need to wait any longer before formally considering candidates to replace him, one of the sources said.
Bird is said to be “100 percent” certain he’s leaving after the most successful season of the Pacers’ post-Palace brawl rebuilding, one of the sources said, but has been extremely guarded publicly about his intentions. The Pacers (42-24) have been one of the surprise teams of the lockout-shortened season, securing the No. 3 seed in the East and hosting the Magic in the first round beginning Saturday.
As we’ve written here previously, this isn’t surprising.
Bird has long said that he wanted to makes sure the franchise was back on good footing before he left a league that, at his age, he seems to no longer have a deep desire to be a part of. He had a three-year plan to right the ship. He was impressively patient in doing so, acquiring quality (mostly) young players on low-risk contracts. He cleared all the bad deals off the books and whoever is running the team in the future will have an enviable amount of flexibility to put their stamp on the franchise’s future. Meanwhile, the team will enter the playoffs on Saturday as the third best team in the Eastern Conference after having limped into the postseason last season with a losing record.
Yup, Larry has stewarded a team he coached to its only NBA Finals appearance 12 years ago into a new era of respectability. Given his role in creating the roster that brought a team that had reached such heights to such lows, I’m sure he is happy to be from under the burden of having steered the Pacers into the wrong direction. As it stands, there is no way to argue this team is not in a good place.
In the worst possible assessment, Larry stuck it out — probably longer than he wanted to — in order to fix what he broke. And that’s a level of personal accountability that it’s hard not to respect. So Pacers fans should now wish him the best — both in his post-NBA life and over the next few weeks as this team tries to exceed the expectations of even the man who built it.