Larry Bird "100 Percent" Sure He's Leaving After This Season, Source Tell CBS Sports

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.

Topics: Herb Simon, Larry Bird

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  • Realist

    Not gonna get into praising Bird too much, as Jared does a fine job of this. He clearly knew what he was doing, and I’m very pleased as a fan that we were able to rebuild without bottoming out.

    2008 – wound up with Hibbert (#17) through dealing though pick #11 – Jerryd Bayless,
    2009 – pick #13 – Tyler Hansbrough;
    2010 – pick #10 – Paul George;
    2011 – wound up with George Hill after dealing Kawhi Leonard (#15)

    I won’t list all the busts that were picked before these guys, but suffice to say….

    Tanking is a joke. The lottery idea is fine, but just give all non-playoff teams the same odds and draw the first 14 pick positions. No need to reward a team for going 31-51 rather than 37-45. Lottery bound teams might not have much reason to win at season’s end either way, but at least they won’t have reason to lose.

    As far as Bird’s replacement goes, I’d like to see us go with Kevin Pritchard or someone similarly established. (Is he still ‘Director of Player Personnel’ btw?) Despite being canned in Portland I thought he did a pretty decent job.

    I remember reading Simon was perhaps keen on a particular soon to be inducted HOF’r to replace Bird. As much as I love him (and I’m sure you do too), please don’t give it to Reggie. If the game’s on the line, sure. GM job, no.

  • Chris D.

    Most Hoosiers have a soft spot for Larry Legend. I’m glad he stuck it out and got it right. I wonder a few things, though.

    1. What if he hadn’t stuck by JOB for so long? Might we have reached where we are now two or three years ago?
    2. Let’s not kid ourselves about George Hill. He’s a solid player. Kahwi Leonard, however, should be the Rookie of the Year and will be a force in this league for many years to come.
    3. Larry’s dispassionate, stone-faced demeanor was fascinating as a coach, where the players were self-motivated. But, I wonder if it didn’t tamp down the Pacers organization as GM. Pacers marketing has to bear the brunt of blame for lack of fan enthusiasm at this point. This is exactly the sort of team Indy says it wants, so why isn’t it more popular. There’s no excuse for not being at least middle of the pack in attendance.

  • PG

    Wow, I think you’re mostly off base here Chris D. Let’s take your points one by one.
    1. I agree we could have sped up this process somewhat, but our improvement this year was in large part due to players acquired via increase flexibility and cap space. Getting JOB may have helped some, but I think pushing this process forward two to three years is a stretch. Likely it would have just resulted in a better overall record last year with a similar record this year. Frankly I think Vogel did almost a good a job as he possibly could this year.
    2. Not sure what you’re watching, but Kawhi Leonard won’t come close to Rookie of the Year. K. Irving has been spectacular and Rubio has lived up to the hype. Those guys have by far and away been the best rookies. I would put Leonard in the same category with Faried, Iman Shumper and Klay Thompson (possibly I. Washington in Sacramento too). He’s going to be a good player in this league but, like G. Hill, has virtually no chance of becoming a star. The only one in that group I listed who could potentially break out into an all-star is Shumpert. Full disclosure, I’m biased because I’m a GT grad.
    3. I can’t disagree with your assessment of Larry’s demeanor. I question how much of an impact that really has on fan enthusiasm. Fans come to see players, not coaches. Not sure how going from Donnie Walsh to Larry Bird as GM would dampen fan enthusiasm though.

  • Jesse

    I think Faried could actually be a star. He’s much better offensively than advertised, he’s explosive, very active, and a hard worker. He’s also whom I thought the Pacers should draft. But obviously we’re pretty happy with Hill right now. Time will tell on this draft, as well as on 2009. Keep in mind that we passed on Ty Lawson in 2009, when we really needed a point guard.

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