The Hall of Fame Boston Celtics great Larry Bird stepped down last August from his position as Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations because of fatigue as well as shoulder and back ailments; now with almost a year away, Bird wants to come back to the team he built to be a playoff contender ( and won the 2012 NBA Executive of the Year for doing so) and win a championship.
Bird, 56, will be reintroduced to the media Thursday morning as the president of basketball operations, the same job he held from 2003-12.
“The year off gave me a chance to reflect, to rest, to take care of some health issues and it re-charged me, Donnie and Kevin did a great job, and I will lean on both heavily as we move forward toward the goal of competing for a championship.”
Bird said in a statement issued by the team.
Donnie Walsh, who preceded Bird as the Pacers’ top decision-maker then succeeded him last summer as president of basketball operations, will now settle in his new role – as a team consultant; Kevin Pritchard (who was his teammate with the Celtics during Bird’s final season in 1991-92) will continue in his role as general manager.
“We are all very happy to have Larry back”, Pacers owner Herb Simon said. “When he left last July, Donnie and I both told him the door would be open for him to come back when he’s ready. Larry had a huge impact on this team and where it is now, so it’s fitting that he comes back at this time. Donnie has been a friend and a valuable contributor to the franchise and will continue to be both. I wanted him to agree to stay in some capacity as I believe with Larry and Kevin, it gives us three of the best basketball minds in the business.”
When Larry Bird left last summer to deal with his health issues, Pritchard was promoted to GM, and Walsh — who was with the franchise for a quarter century — returned after taking a year off himself following a three-year run as president of the New York Knicks.
““I met with Larry when he wanted to leave last year, and I said I would do this until he was ready to come back. He’s ready and I couldn’t be happier,” Walsh said. “I had a great year last year with this team. It is a great group of guys who have the potential for some great things and to remain a part of this, with two people who I love to work with and respect greatly, is very special.”
Under Bird’s guidance, the Pacers returned to the playoffs in 2011. Bird’s shrewd moves included a draft-day trade for Roy Hibbert and another draft-day trade for George Hill, the signing of free-agent power forward David West and the selections of Paul George and Lance Stephenson in the 2010 draft. Those five, and Danny Granger, produced the franchise’s first playoffs series win in seven years last season, and it was those five, without Granger, that pushed Miami to the limit in Indiana’s first conference finals appearance in nine years. Bird’s fingerprints are all over this team and he has come back to oversee and help the team as the organization tries to make the next step in its pursuit to an NBA Finals in the near future.
Larry Bird will officially take over on July 1st.