Larry Bird Reportedly Leaving Indiana Pacers, Donnie Walsh to Return
According to The Indianapolis Star's Mike Wells, the current team president is "100 percent sure" he won't be back next year and plans to quit on Tuesday, when he meets with Pacers owner Herb Simon.
Each year, there is speculation about whether or not Bird will be back with the team, as he has been notoriously unwilling to commit to anything long-term with the Pacers. Though he settles for a year-by-year, informal "handshake" agreement, this time was the one time it seemed as though Bird was definitely aiming to resume his presidential duties for the 2012-13 season.
Judging by his remarks after the Pacers were eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual champion Heat, Bird believed there was more work to be done, and by all indications, he wanted to be a part of it. After that conference semifinals loss, Bird told Wells:
[I want to talk to Simon about] the direction of the team, what kind of job he thinks we’re doing, if there’s anything he sees that we should be doing better. Just a number of questions. I’ve got a lot of them written down to ask him, and hopefully we can get the answers we like and move on.
There is a chance that Bird will only take a year off before returning to a front-office position in some capacity, according to Wells. In the meantime, there is widespread speculation that former team CEO Donnie Walsh will take over as president in Bird's wake.
Walsh, who spent 24 years with the Pacers, served as president of the New York Knicks before being ousted last June. According to the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence, Walsh has been present at the Pacers' recent pre-draft workouts and will lead Indiana's charge to re-sign point guard George Hill, which is the team's No. 1 offseason priority.
Should Larry Bird leave the Pacers now?
Walsh left the Knicks after being offered a 40 percent pay cut, and after Garden chairman Jim Dolan refused to give him full autonomy over the team's operations, according to Lawrence. Publicly, however, the Knicks and Walsh have claimed that they simply failed to agree on a multi-year deal.
Though the transition from Bird to Walsh bodes to be seamless, it would be a shame for Bird to leave the team now. The Pacers are so close to achieving something substantial for the first time since 2003-04, when they last made a trip to the Eastern Conference finals.
Since then, the Pacers have missed the playoffs entirely four times, and they have failed to make it any further than the second round. But this season—after finishing second to Chicago in the Central Division—the Pacers looked so promising against the Heat. They may be young, but they proved to be a very athletic team that's only missing a couple of key pieces before they can truly compete in the Eastern Conference.
With the team this close to achieving success, Bird can't walk away. One more year could be all it takes to win.
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