Top Exec Bird Leaves Them Guessing





INDIANAPOLIS — Once you’ve won Executive of the Year, adding to your three MVPs and Coach of the Year and three championships and etc., etc., where do you go from here?

Hopefully, for the Pacers’ sake, Larry Bird goes back to work.

“Right now we’re working on the Draft and we’ve got free agency, so it never stops,” he said. “We keep plugging along.”

That’s the closest Bird has come to committing to next season. Right now, the franchise is left to guess, like everyone else, what exactly is in Bird’s immediate future. And if he knows, he’s not saying. Bird has maintained all along that he’ll wait until after this season to decide whether to retire or solider on as Pacers president, and the drama is only building because the Pacers’ season is stretching longer than it has in seven years.

Much of that is due to the turnaround engineered by Bird, who was officially named the league’s top exec Wednesday, the day after the Pacers evened their second-round series with the Heat. The honor is well deserved by Bird, only the third man (after Frank Layden and Pat Riley) to own a coach and executive award, because his fingerprints are all over this current Pacers’ team. In the last several months, Bird added David West, George Hill, Louis Amundson and Leandro Barbosa without giving up much in terms of core assets. Handcuffed by the realities of the typical small-market team, and one that hasn’t had the luxury of landing a franchise player through the draft, the Pacers are deep and with a mix of veterans and youth.

It has been a long and slow climb to respectability for Bird and the Pacers, following the Malice at the Palace several years ago, when he was forced to push the restart button. The Pacers had image issues and salary cap issues, which resulted in years of losing games and a segment of the fan base.

“It took a lot of work,” Bird said. “We had to change the culture. We had to take it slow and get some players we thought we could build around. It was a long journey, it was a painful journey, but we think it’s going to pay dividends.

“Last summer we got lucky and picked up a couple of players, and I’m really excited about where this franchise is heading. I like my team, and we’re young, so we’ve got room to grow.”

Bird initially took plenty of heat when he first began to rebuild, a typical reaction by an impatient society.

“Being from Indiana and having the chance to work for a great franchise like the Pacers was an honor, but I knew it was going to be tough,” said Bird. “And it’s still tough. We don’t drive revenues like the big market teams. We can’t go after $17-$18 million players. We’ve got to go about it a different way. One piece at a time. If we try to patchwork it, it don’t work that way. At least that’s what I’ve seen. We had an opportunity to get under the cap and we’ve made the most of it.”

Among Bird’s better moves was last summer’s hiring of Frank Vogel over Mike Brown. Vogel is the former Pacers assistant coach who turned last season’s surprising playoff run into a 2011-12 campaign that saw the Pacers grab the No. 3 seed.

“If you look at how this team has been built, it really is remarkable,” said Vogel. “We haven’t had a No. 1 or 2 pick in the draft. We only have one player taken in the top 10 and that’s Paul George at No. 10. To build this team with mid-lottery picks and not exactly blockbuster trades is nearly impossible to do.”

And so, what’s next? Well, Bird said he’d never leave the job until he was sure the Pacers had turned the corner. And now that they have, Bird is on the clock.

28 Comments

  1. nelson says:

    except for defensive player of the year, Bird pretty much won every award there is in basketball

  2. The voice in the distance says:

    All-time great player. Excellent coach. Excellent executive. The only individual award winner in all three categories. The nickname “Larry Legend” could not be more appropriate. Would not be surprised if one day a team he built won a championship.

  3. Clutch says:

    Larry Bird is just sharpshooter like Ray Allen now

  4. girlinred says:

    I DON’T CARE WEATHER HE’S 5-10 OR 20 I’M JUST GLAD HE CAME HOME TO COACH/EXEC

  5. KT says:

    Top 5 in retired players!
    MJ. Wilt. Bill Russel. Magic. Bird.

    • GK says:

      A top 5 list in Basketball could never gain a consensus … but one wonders if one that doesn’t have Jabbar, West, Baylor, Doctor J, or Oscar Robertson could be credible…. I think a top 10 would be easier to to get some agreement on.

  6. Anse MacDonald says:

    It is next to impossible to compare Larry to any other in basketball as there is only one Larry Bird especially as a player. Thanks Larry.

  7. Larry first struggled drafting players who did not deserve to play in the league, but bird got it together and put a good team on the court and community.

  8. Mike says:

    Bird made a great team this year, not a superstar duo witha good supporting crew

  9. GO PACERS says:

    Larry is The King Midas, everything he touches turns to gold. Indiana will win the series against Miami.

  10. kILLarifIC says:

    WHY DOES EVERYONE FROM BOSTON AND INDIANA SAY THAT BIRD IS THE 2ND BEST OF ALL TIME?? TOP 10 FOR SURE AND MAAAYYBBEEE TOP 5 BUT DEF NOT #2

    • budf1955 says:

      I am ready for a laugh, please honor all of us with your top 5 or top 10 list.

      The man deserves this award, congratulations!

  11. Dra says:

    I think Bird did a good job with the pacers.To see a superstar do what he did and put together a good team without a superstar is incredible!

  12. Marco Polo says:

    congratulation, larry Bird but i suppose LAC’s General manager Neil Olshey must win Executive of the Year beacuse he bought Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, and Nick Young. last year LAC was out of Playoff 32-50 but this year LAC qualified to semi-final West.

    • kILLarifIC says:

      VERY GOOD POINT MARCO POLO. Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, and Nick Young are better pick ups than amundson, barbosa, and west.

      • TH Baby says:

        LAC is not like the Pacer’s. Clipper’s is more of a highlight team not a lets play team ball and get the W in a humble mannor like the Pacer’s. That’s why I love the quote “give me role players and I’ll give you a Ring, but give me SuperStars and I’ll just give you a team.” The Pacer’s are all role players thats why they have success unlike the Heat. The Heat have too many Cheif’s and not enough Indians. A team only needs 1 Cheif (the Head Coach) and the acctual team it’s self need to be the Indian’s and willing enough to take direction. Because there playing the game not watching it like the Head Coach. So in other words leave it up to the Head Coach to make the changes and just go out and do your best to do what the Head Coach is telling you.

  13. Pola says:

    Great Player, Great Coach, Great Exec. That is Larry Bird. He does not influence the team though his superstar status during his days but of his sharp mind and good decision-making. He makes marginal players above par player. He wants everyone in the team to contribute, he is a great motivator.

  14. Kmill says:

    Bird’s the second best player, after Michael Jordan, in NBA history. Nice to see him become such a succes as a coach and now exec.

    • MtheGOAT says:

      Agreed never seen anyone dominate a game quite like him against some SERIOUS competition!

  15. Ray08 says:

    what a great job by bird to make a playoff contender in Indiana…..i hope he comes back next year to boston and help us rebuild our team once the era of the big four ends….Go Cs…..

  16. mr.ed says:

    behind jerry west, arguably the second best person to have a successful career in all things basketball- player, coach, executive.

    not even a pacers fan but i do wish continued success for them and bird. just a championship under his watch is all that’s needed to add to his already secure legacy as one of the game’s greats.

  17. CJ says:

    Let the guess Bird!

  18. AJ says:

    Bird seems to be the exception to the rule that all of the superstars of that played in his era make lousy coaches, executives.
    Magic Johnson, Bird’s ” nemesis ” though an excellent businessman made a lousy coach/exec, as with Jordan, Thomas, and most of the other 80’s superstars that tried to make it in the offices versus the hardwood.

    I think of all of them, Bird was devoid of the monster ego, something that one has to leave behind when becoming a coach or executive, speaks volumes about Bird.

    • Luke says:

      Very well said.

    • BIGMatta23 says:

      All true except about Bird not having a monster ego…2 well known examples – walking into the All-Star locker room before winning the 3 point shootout and saying ” which one of you is coming second?!” Pointing to a spot on the floor before an out of bounds play with 1 sec left and telling Xavier McDaniel “i’m going to shoot it from here right in your face” and then making it. Love the man.

  19. BFoulds says:

    Bird. One of the top 10 greatest players of all time if not top 5, and an amazing executive. Props to Bird!