The man who has taken the Indiana Pacers further than anyone else – as a coach and as an executive – will be soon be leaving the franchise according to reports.
The Indianapolis Star reported Tuesday morning that Larry Bird would not return next season as team president.
Bird has made a lasting impression with the franchise. He first joined the franchise in 1997 as head coach and was immensely successful. The West Baden native led the Pacers to a 147-67 record in three seasons. After the team made its only appearance in the NBA Finals in 2000 Bird resigned from the job citing health-related issues.
He returned in an executive capacity in 2003 learning under longtime executive Donnie Walsh. Those years were marred by an infamous brawl involving fans at a game in Detroit, as well as multiple incidents of Pacer players running afoul of the law.
In addition to creating a poor public image, the team was not nearly as successful as many had thought it would be. Walsh signed several players to long-term, high-dollar contracts such as Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Tinsley, which hamstrung the club for several seasons.
Ultimately, Bird replaced Walsh in 2008 and through patience and shrewd maneuvering; he was able to guide the team out of its malaise.
Bird was able to trade O’Neal and ultimately got young franchise center Roy Hibbert in return. Tinsley’s deal ultimately came off of the books and a pair of other expensive, yet under-performing players in Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy also was eventually dispatched from the roster.
In the case of Murphy, Bird was able to trade the former Notre Dame star for a promising young point guard in Darren Collison.
The Pacers have made the playoffs each of the past two seasons and this year had the fifth-best record in the league.
The Hall of Fame player was recognized this season as the NBA Executive of the Year.
Bird has continued to rebuild the roster through smart trades and drafting. Despite not having high picks in recent years, he has been able to find productive players in Hibbert, Tyler Hansborough, and Paul George, while making deals to secure Indianapolis native George Hill and forward David West.
It was recently announced that Walsh would be returning to the franchise in some capacity, but at this time, it is undetermined as to what his role will be.