Larry Bird Denies Report He Left Pacers over Ownership's Unwillingness to Spend

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2020

Larry Bird speaks after resigning from his position as Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations during a news conference Monday, May 1, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Larry Bird has denied the report he left the Indiana Pacers in 2017 because of his frustrations with ownership:

Indiana Pacers @Pacers

Statement from Larry Bird: https://t.co/jpCEQdTEni

The statement comes after ESPN's Jackie MacMullan reported on Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective that the Pacers' lack of spending caused Bird to step down as president of basketball operations.

"Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money," MacMullan said (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports).Β "We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside."

Bird was in the Pacers front office from 2003 to '17, with the exception of the 2012-13 season when he resigned before returning one year later.

The Pacers reached the Eastern Conference Finals multiple times with Bird running the show, and the Hall of Fame player was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 2011-12.

When he resigned in 2017, he explained it was simply a desire to move on.

"I felt it was time to step away in a full-time capacity," BirdΒ saidΒ at the time. "This has nothing to do with my health or our team. I'm 60 years old and I want to do other things away from basketball."

The timing was interesting with the organization at a crossroads, including Paul George one year away from free agency. The inability to build around the superstar likely frustrated him.

Kevin Pritchard traded George away shortly after taking over the job, although he was able to bring in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, both of whom have earned All-Star selections with the Pacers. Instead of rebuilding, Indiana has remained a competitor in the Eastern Conference each year since.

Bird's trust in Pritchard, a fellow Indiana native, allowed him to leave the organization with complete confidence the team would continue to thrive.