Larry Bird Will Not Return to the Pacers' Front Office

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge surprise. The second half of this past season was full of reports that Larry Bird was not returning to head the franchise he helped rebuild from the brink of disaster. Still, Bird continued to deny such reports and just a few weeks ago sat down with the media and sounded like he was preparing to come back.

But he isn’t.

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star has a source who says Bird is “100 percent sure” that he is not returning as team president.

This leaves a tw0-man team of Donnie Walsh, the 1990s Pacers’ patriarch who is among the most respected executives in NBA history, and Kevin Pritchard, who Bird seemingly went out of his way to ensure would be the future GM of this franchise.

Kevin Pritchard, the team’s current director of player personnel, will likely work with Walsh as the team’s new general manager. Bird pushed for Pritchard to become general manager, citing Pritchard’s basketball knowledge.

David Morway, who had been the Pacers’ general manager, is no longer employed by the franchise, according to a source.

These are all the details we have as of now. More to come, obviously.

Regardless, the franchise is at a very good place right now. Many Pacers fans will be upset that Bird won’t be here to shepherd the franchise through a pivotal offseason. Roy Hibbert, who Bird traded former All-NBA power forward Jermaine O’Neal for, and George Hill, who Bird traded last year’s first-round pick on draft day last year, are both restricted free agents. But the restricted aspect means that those guys will be forced to return, for at least one season, no matter who is at the helm if the front office so chooses. (The Pacers have the right to match any contract either sign with another team.)

Without the presence of Bird, who has shown a steady patience throughout the past few seasons and been averse to drastic, risky transactions, it seems more likely that something rash may happen. But given the talent and salary cap flexibility of this roster, any competent executive should be in the position to maintain the positive momentum and growth that this team has shown over the past two seasons.

And by all accounts, Walsh — even at 71 years old — and Pritchard are beyond competent.

UPDATE: Wells has added a little more nuance in a follow-up blog post.

Bird deciding to walk away ends the year-to-year speculation about his future. No more year-to-year handshakes with owner Herb Simon.

Bird will meet with Simon as early as Tuesday to finalize his departure.

Bird’s decision to walk away comes about a month after he talked like a person ready to continue as president of the team.

The word “retired” is not being used with Bird. He may take a year off so that he can tend to some back and shoulder problems, then decide if he wants return to a front office, according to a source.

Bob Kravitz, also of the Star, also noted that health issues are likely at the center of Bird’s decision.

So why’s he walking?

Over the past year, we had a few conversations about what he might do. One day, he would sound like he was staying. Another day, he would sound like a goner. But the one thing he would always bring up was the pain he was feeling in his eternally balky back, the fact it was so difficult to sit for hours on end and watch tape or sit in a gym and watch prospects.

Unless there’s a backstory with which we’re completely unfamiliar, this sounds like a health, or quality-of-life issue, at its core.

Tags: News

  • PG

    I hope this has been planned for a while, otherwise there is a lot of work to do before the draft on Thursday. Also I read an article on PBT which said that George Hill was the top priority? I know PBT has some dubious accuracy but it’s gotta be Hibbert that we address first right?

  • Ronal Eugene is Right!!

    John Hollinger on ESPN keeps saying that Darren Collison is a free agent and he is our top priority. I think it’s safe to say the ‘analysts’ don’t know anything and the speculation is pointless. Hibbert will be resigned, I’m not as sure about Hill. He’s really not worth more than what he already turned down.

  • Goatlava

    The pacers will be fine. He will have his fingerprints on this team for years, including the future GM. Bird has an insane brain fir the roundball and knows exactly what he’s doing; whether its coaching, GM’ing, or being an executive. No one, not Jordan, Magic, Or even McHale can hold this mans Jockstrap. He needs to have a special place in the Hall of Fame for all of his contributions to this game. Forever my favorite player! Borderline genious/insane.

  • atc

    FYI Mike Wells on 1070 speculating this is more than health issues… more about Bird wanting to win and Simon not being willing to spend (

  • trifecta3131

    I like Hill & Hibbert. But if the money ain’t right, I’d let ‘em both walk. Neither is good enough to consistently lean on in a playoff game. Hill is reckless with the ball at times. Hibbert tends to dissapear on offense every other game. If they want top money, let ‘em walk, or find a way to trade ‘em. It’s a shame because they’re also both good character guys, but the Pacers can’t break the bank to keep them. If they plan on keeping only one though, I hope it’s Hibbert. Tougher to find a big man.

  • Greg @

    Larry Bird knows what’s best for the Pacers, and he always acts according to this. He wouldn’t be doing this if he thought that his leaving would compromise the immediate success of the Pacers. I wish him well and hope he gets his health issues resolved.

  • IG

    How could Bird be leaving? He just won Executive of the Year last month! Please stay Larry! We promise not to be soft any more!

  • little B

    Larry Bird I feel has always told what he really thinks and has never tried to hide how he has really felt. Examples:
    After Walsh left Larry said his main goal is to get a team that is respectable and probably not be good and that it would take 3-4 years to get them at playoff level. Exactly what happened.
    Larry during the season last year said the Pacers at best would make it to the second round and put up a fight. Exactly what happened.
    Last year going into his meeting with Simon he said he would only stay if Simon was willing to spend money. Bird stayed. Bird got EOY. (Let’s hope this isn’t the reason he isn’t coming back, but I believe Larry would have said this before just like last year.)
    Larry said several years ago he would get the team where someone would want to take it over
    then leave. That appears to have happened now? I only question it because all the other stories coming out:

    Larry made it sound like a month ago he was going to stay with the team in his press conference, now he is leaving? Hopefully it is not due to health issues. But I feel if it was anything else Larry would have publically came out and said it. So the health issue does make since.

    Larry wanted a 3 year deal and not a year to year . If this is true, how does he already know he isn’t getting a 3 year deal when he hasn’t “talked” with Simon? And if Simon doesn’t want to give him a 3 year deal, Let’s hope Simon makes the right decision.

    The only thing that makes me throw everything I said above out the window is if Larry is biting his tongue because whatever has happened he knows will make the Pacer Nation unhappy and Larry is always about the best interest of the team. Example: say if Larry quit because Simon didn’t want to spend money(on him or players), then Pacer Nation would be done with and moving to Seattle or Anaheim in 2013. The Pacers still have a horrible attendance record and have been fighting a franchise move for several years. An owner not wanting to spend money on his players and a bad 2012-2013 season would send the Pacers franchise across america and the blue and gold fans(whatever ones are left or have been recently added in 2012) would never look back.
    Would this charade of moves end soon? Please. As you can tell my mind is in complete whirl, and I haven’t even got started on the Pacers draft selections or Free Agents.

  • dwain

    Simon u idiot, on the verge of building a championship team and u gotta be a fool and let the man walk away…over what a couple a million more for a player Larry knows will put this team in contention? what a joke
    u blow this Simon and no one will ever forgive or forget….

  • Chris D.

    I wish Larry Legend all the best, but I’m not sorry to see him go. His tenure has not been all that spectacular. He was indecisive after The Brawl. He stood by JOB for at least a year too long and lucked into a good coach with Vogel. We will be kicking ourselves in years to come for trading away Kawhi Leonard. We beat Orlando (minus Dwight Howard) and lost to a Bosh-less Miami. Nice progress, but it only looks great compared to how bad it was 18 mos. ago. We will not contend in the East without a scorer in the league top 10. We could easily fall to a 5 or 6 six next year with our same roster if ATL stays healthy and BOS and/or PHI start their seasons stronger. The NBA is simple: Get a star or go home. I never heard Bird indicate how were were going to land or groom a top player. OJ Mayo and Jamaal Crawford are no better than what we’ve got already. Morway was right not to pick them up. I don’t care what Bird thinks on that count.

  • Jesse

    @Chris D.–It gets back to my point–how do we know for which decisions to credit Larry?

    Paul George was a great pick. Pulling David West out of Boston’s clutches was a coup for a small market team. But who really gets the credit? Morway may have been pushed out undeservedly.

  • longtimewatcher

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but memory tells me that the Simon brother who was most interested in basketball, and the team, died. The brother left always seemed to defer to Bird. I got the feeling that Larry basically had carte blanche, Now maybe that only extended to the limits of the salary cap. With a small market, low attendance team, anyone with a business background is likely to shy away from trying to compete financially with the New Yorks and Los Angeleses of the league, in trying to attract talent..Be that as it may, isn’t it premature to worry about the luxury tax, when we have more cap space than 90% of the NBA teams? I think Simon is going to be sick over Larry’s departure. Who can he trust? For all Larry’s faults, he brings the team credibility and respect.

    So I am left with Larry’s pain. He has a large aching body, and I wouldn’t trade places with him for all the money in the world. As for the presser last month, hasn’t he allowed us to be misled by what he has said before? Seems to ring a bell.

    I don’t tend to over-read things, and have spoke my piece, and so hereby yield the floor to the conspiracy theorists. Show me the error of my ways.

    Ciao ~

    So I am left with Larry’s pain and

  • Joe B

    This is dubious…I felt confident that Bird would come back after the run in this years playoffs and the prospect of moving up in the draft to land the missing piece / being a major player in free agency. Maybe this is a rift over spending? If this is a back issue, couldn’t Larry livestream footage or watch tapes in bed? I’m just not convinced that the uncomfortableness of sitting somewhere is the reason for leaving when hundreds of interns would be willing to tape whatever needs to be taped.

    My conspiracy theory: Simon pooped on Bird’s dream–Bird decided to leave. What I really think (mostly): Bird lost the memory of the playoff push and became bogged down by the thought of the next, full season, where if the Pacers cannot land a solid player have, at best, the fifth best team in the league where one key injury could derail them.

  • Zack

    I really think Simon doesn’t want to spend the money Larry knows is necessary to win. We gotta try to go after D Will (even if he won’t come to Indiana, who knows?). Even when D Will signs with Brooklyn or Dallas, you gotta try to either move up in the draft and/or attract another free agent, then spend the money necessary to bring back both George Hill and Roy Hibbert. My guess is that Simon doesn’t want to get into the luxury tax area (which will happen if the Pacers sign any sort of decent free agent and also resign both Hill and Hibbert. I have a bad feeling that the Pacers will let at least one of those two guys walk. But we’re a little stuck. A good, but not great team and I don’t think we can beat a healthy Miami or Chicago with this current team. So where do we go from here if we’re not willing to spend any more money? Unfortunately, that answer is down.

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