Possible Walsh Return Raises Some Questions

Late last night, Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star reported that the man who oversaw the Pacers’ greatest success in the NBA – Donnie Walsh – could be returning to the team in some capacity.

There’s a possibility that former CEO Donnie Walsh will return to the franchise in some capacity, multiple sources told The Star.

It’s uncertain what role Walsh will play with the franchise.

That question should be answered next week when team owner Herb Simon returns to Indianapolis for meetings to help clear up the team’s murky front office situation.

Wells goes on to note that Walsh has actually attended some of the pre-draft workouts.

This adds to a somewhat curious summer for the Pacer Front Office situation. Larry Bird’s status is still unclear, with reports of his departure running hot and cold. At the post-season presser, Bird looked and sounded for all the world like a man set to return. Days later, Dan Dakich was saying on his local radio show that Bird was definitely leaving.

Then, we hear from Adrian Wojnarowski that Bird’s plan was to fire the current General Manager, David Morway, and replace him Kevin Pritchard. This was later confirmed by Mike Wells, though with considerably different spin.

Woj portrayed Morway as the victim of some corporate backstabbing by Pritchard. While that may be true, at least to some degree, it’s important to note that Woj has a history with Pritchard, famously torching the former Portland GM back in 2010.

Wells’ sources with the Pacers, however, maintained that Bird’s relationship had soured with Morway on its own.

It takes awhile to earn Bird’s trust and once you burn that bridge he’s done with people. That’s the case right now with Morway.

The final straw with the Bird-Morway relationship, according to those close to the two, came during training camp when the Pacers failed to land O.J. Mayo and then lost out on free agent Jamal Crawford – option No. 2 to be the team’s first shooting guard off the bench – on the same day.

The Pacers had agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that would have sent Josh McRoberts to Memphis for Mayo because the Grizzlies were trying to shed salary. Sources say it was Morway that caused the deal to “fall apart” because he pushed the Grizzlies to take swingman Brandon Rush. Morway did a lot of talking to teams and some of the negotiating. Bird would then step in and make the final decision.

Bird was seething over the blown deal, according to sources. He had lost any remaining trust in Morway after that.

To make matters worse, Crawford and his agent got tired of waiting on the Pacers to make a decision that they told them the same day the Mayo deal fell apart that they weren’t going to sign with them.

Of course, this is probably true, as well, at least to some degree. Regardless of the specific details, this information being fed to Wells does seem to at least indicate that The Powers That Be in the Pacer organization are backing Pritchard, not Morway. All the while, Bird’s future was (is) waiting to be determined by a face-to-face meeting with Herb Simon that was to be held this past week, but now isn’t expected until sometime next week.

And now Donnie Walsh might be in the picture.

The Pacers are now six days from the 2012 NBA Draft, and less than two weeks from the start of a crucial free agent summer, and it is still unclear who will be steering the ship. So, is it time to panic? Are they all out of their minds?


Well, at least probably not. Sure, it could all blow up, but there’s no real reason to expect it. The first thing to realize is that while the situation is unclear to us, it is not necessarily unclear to the people directly involved. It’s entirely possible that what looks like wide gaps from the outside are not considered to be large obstacles by those directly involved.

Perhaps the most assuring fact in the situation is that everyone in the picture – Simon, Bird, Walsh, and Pritchard – are all pretty competent hands. It’s not like we’ve got a power struggle between Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas going on here. The most likely outcome is that everything will be fine.

Still, this isn’t really designed to fill the casual observer with confidence. There are some things here that you wish weren’t. Playing out the Morway-to-Pritchard transition in public is less than ideal. The continuing delays in meeting between Bird and Simon could be troubling, and the (re)introduction of Donnie Walsh’s name at this stage of the game does raise some eyebrows.

We could be seeing some red flags popping up, or we could just be witnessing sausages being made, it’s impossible to tell. The Pacers are victim of having this type of internal decision making being played out quasi-publicly. Keep in mind, that three of the major players – Simon, Bird, and Walsh – all have a history of making decisions on their own terms and their own timeline. This does not lend itself to a quick process.

Is this the way things should be done? No, but I’ll tell you I’ve worked for over 20 years in some of the largest and most successful companies in the world, and I can’t ever recall seeing any company or any one person consistently do things the “way they should be done.”

How will it play out? Don’t know, but I’m not particularly worried. We’ll find out soon enough. For now, there is just the waiting.

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Tags: David Morway Donnie Walsh Kevin Pritchard Larry Bird

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