Is Larry Bird Telling Us the Whole Story?
It shouldn't come as a complete surprise, then, that Larry Legend has decided to vacate his post as president of the Indiana Pacers, per Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star. This, less than two months after adding an Executive of the Year credit to his already extensive resume and just days before the 2012 NBA Draft and the opening of free agency.
Even after sounding like a man looking forward to another year on the job in late May, when he told Wells:
“(I want to talk to team owner Herb 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.”
As a teenager, Bird left Indiana University, a bona fide college basketball powerhouse, to play at little-known Indiana State, which he eventually led to the NCAA Tournament title game against Magic Johnson's Michigan State squad. He spent the latter portions of his Hall-of-Fame career with the Boston Celtics playing through crippling back problems, of which he rarely made mention even after retiring because of them. Five years after leaving the floor, Bird emerged from the Indiana Pacers' front office to take over as the team's coach. He excelled from the get-go, earning distinction as Coach of the Year in 1998 and guiding the Pacers to their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.
And then, after the Los Angeles Lakers ousted Reggie Miller and company in six games, he called it quits, just as he said he would when he originally took the job at Simon's behest.
Abrupt change, it would seem, has always been a part of Larry Legend's modus operandi, along with lingering questions about his "actual" motivations.
Just as the case seems to be this time around. The report in The Star suggests that Bird is acquiescing on account of lingering back and shoulder problems, and that the door is open for his return to the Pacers' front office, if he so chooses, after stepping away for a year.
But, as Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports points out, there may well be other factors at play. Perhaps, Bird feels that his work is done, now that the Pacers are back as perennial playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference after a painful, four-year hiatus. Perhaps, he's perfectly comfortable handing the reigns of the team off to director of former Pacers and New York Knicks president Donnie Walsh, who preceded Bird, and player personnel and former Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard.
Perhaps Bird figured this team had already reached its ceiling, without a bona fide superstar, and had no desire to attempt to sign or trade for one as a means of staving off another long, arduous rebuilding process.
Perhaps he was just tired, especially after handling all the attention that's come with the renewed interest in his relationship with Magic Johnson and his role on the 1992 Dream Team.
Perhaps Bird, ever the fickle perfectionist, grew bored with his latest endeavor and wants to try something new.
Will the Pacers miss Larry Bird?
Or, perhaps the sudden shift really is simply the result of persistent health problems.
Whatever the case may be, the Pacers should be fine without Bird watching over their every move. Walsh and Pritchard will have plenty of financial flexibility with which to re-sign Roy Hibbert and pursue another high-profile free agent, be it Memphis' OJ Mayo, Indianapolis native Eric Gordon or someone else entirely.
As for Bird, whatever endeavor The Legend moves onto, he'll likely do so with the same eye toward and acumen for excellency that he's exercised throughout his professional life.
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