The news itself is not alarming, but it will still feel a little weird to think of the Indiana Pacers and not picture Larry Bird running the team.
His time has officially come to an end.
According to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star, Bird is leaving the organization after taking over in 2003 as the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations ending much speculation of his tenure with the team the last two seasons.
Wells reports undetermined “health issues” as the primary reasons behind Bird stepping aside and he is expected to meet with owner Herb Simon on Tuesday to finalize his departure.
And while the news of Bird’s decision should not come as a shock, neither should the domino effect it will have within the organization as a whole with the NBA Draft now two days away and the Pacers about to shake things up in the front office.
Over the weekend reports surfaced in Indiana that former Pacers’ CEO Donnie Walsh could be returning to the franchise in an advisor role and perhaps even take over Bird’s title as president. Most recently, Walsh has been part of the crowd at Indiana’s pre-draft workouts only adding more speculation that he’s positioning himself for a reunion with Simon and the Pacers.
This also sets up current director of player personnel, Kevin Pritchard, for a promotion as Indiana’s new general manager. With former GM David Morway no longer with the team, Pritchard resuming the front office spot is plan Bird began working toward since bringing on Pritchard.
The Portland Trail Blazers fired Pritchard on the night of the 2010 NBA Draft after six seasons with the team, ending months of speculation of a falling out owner Paul Allen. A year later in July, 2011 he was officially hired by the Pacers in his current role and now the story is about to come full cirlce.
Pritchard has always been a “draft guru” of sorts, so don’t be surprised if he has a heavy influence on Thursday night at the NBA Draft and with the Pacers holding the 26th overall pick.
Moving up in the draft, pulling off a trade and acquiring additional picks is his specialty.
Also don’t be shocked if both Pritchard and Walsh are solidified in their new roles before July 1 and NBA free agency officially gets underway.
It will send a strong message to players the open market to know they will be in good hands with Walsh and Pritchard in charge in Indiana.
For much of the season, Indiana was slept on and finally woke some people up in the postseason when the battled the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Now you have to slot the Pacers in behind teams like Miami, Chicago and Boston as teams to reckon with in the East.
As for Bird, don’t be so sure his days running an NBA team or over and done with.
Taking a year off and getting his health concerns addressed should be the primary focus. During that time he will decide if he wants to return to a front office of his choosing.