Dan Shaughnessy

A few more observations from Bird’s nest

LARRY BIRD Readying two for college LARRY BIRD
Readying two for college
By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / November 20, 2009

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INDIANAPOLIS - Larry Bird was not in the house when Bill Belichick decided to go for it on fourth and 2 from his 28. Even though Bird works just a few blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium, he has never been to a game there.

“But I watch ’em all,’’ he said Saturday night before his Pacers beat the Celtics at Conseco Fieldhouse.

“My son is a big Patriots fan,’’ said Bird. “He’s screaming and hollering and all that stuff. I always go with the Colts, but I never want any Boston team to lose, so I’m stuck in between. Even when my beloved Cardinals were playing the Red Sox [2004 World Series], I was like, ‘I can’t lose here.’ I just wanted the best team to win.

“I’ll tell you what, though. That Manning is good. I know Brady’s good, but Manning is unbelievable. There’s times when guys will be running and just turn and the ball is there for a 40-yard gain. That shows me that in the summertime, them guys spend a lot of time together. Those things don’t just happen.’’

Bird has been back in the news in Boston because of “When The Game Was Ours,’’ a book he authored with Magic Johnson. Actually, that’s something of a fib because former Globie Jackie MacMullan did all the actual writing. The tome is about to hit The New York Times bestseller list.

Magic got headlines for calling out Isiah Thomas (“I will never trust him again’’) in the book. Larry’s most controversial stuff appears on Page 151 when he rips Cedric Maxwell for not working hard to come back from knee surgery during the failed championship run of 1985.

“He got his money and he quit,’’ said Bird.

Standing in the hallway outside the Pacers locker room, just a 3-pointer away from where Max was preparing to do the radio broadcast Saturday night, Bird did not back away from his remarks.

“He did quit on us,’’ said No. 33. “You can ask everybody. Everybody was mad at Max in the Finals that year. It was disruptive. You get a chance to win a championship . . .

“It was about him not wanting to play more, more than anything else. I like Max. But he quit. I’ve said it to him a million times. He quit on us. He says I quit on him, but that trade - I didn’t have nothing to do with it.’’

Red Auerbach dealt Maxwell to the Clippers for Bill Walton after the ’85 Finals.

“Max always talks about Bill Walton. I had nothing to do with that. Red said, ‘Do you think Bill Walton can help us?’ and I said, ‘Yeah. If he’s healthy, we win a championship.’ That’s all I ever said about it.’’

What about Magic’s stunning takedown of Isiah?

“That’s between them two,’’ said Bird. “I don’t know nothing about it. I don’t even know Isiah. I just know Magic from commercials. I’ve been around him more now than I ever had. I just asked him, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s been inside me for a long time. I want to get it out there.’ ’’

Bird had only great things to say about the person who actually wrote the book.

“When we decided to do it, I said to Earvin, ‘Let’s get Jackie. No bull. She gets her work done. She’ll be calling you all the time to get it going. But if you can put up with that, don’t worry about the book.’ She knows what she’s doing. She’s good. She goes after it.’’

MacMullan got Bird to admit for the first time that: 1. He’d never seen an escalator until 1978 when he walked into the Indianapolis Hyatt to talk to the Pacers after his junior season at Indiana State; 2. His mom was a big fan of Bill Laimbeer, whom Larry hated; 3. After the Celtics won the 1986 championship, Walton sat alone in Bird’s kitchen drinking Wild Turkey until after the sun came up.

I told Bird I didn’t believe the Walton story. Simply too good to be true.

“Yeah, it happened,’’ he said. “After we won, me and Dinah went out to K.C. Jones’s restaurant. He had a rib place. I had two beers. Remember how we stopped drinking that year?’’ - the ’86 Celtics swore off alcohol for their playoff run - “Well, I had two beers and they didn’t even taste good. I was tired, anyway, so I went home an hour later.

“Bill came over. It was late. Doorbell rang and Dinah answered and she was like, ‘Hey, Bill. Larry’s in bed.’ I heard him, so I go out and I said, ‘Hey, man I ain’t doing this tonight. I can’t.’ He goes, ‘Don’t worry about it. I don’t even need you. I’m just going to sit down here at the table.’ He had a bottle of whiskey. And he said, ‘I’ll be here when you wake up.’ And he was.

Greatest story ever.

As for his 2009 Pacers, Bird said, “We’re rebuilding and people tend to forget that. We have a plan, and after next year we’re going to have a lot of money and I want to get a core of guys here to build with and hopefully take seven or eight of ’em with us going forward, and if we can do that, I think we’ll be better.’’

The Pacers are still recovering from the melee at The Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004.

“It changed everything,’’ said Bird. “It hit harder here than you can ever imagine. It not only killed our fan base, but everything we tried to do that year to win. We felt we were very talented. It just stopped on that night. We had a decent bench and good players and felt we were going to make a great playoff run, but it all stopped.’’

Bird’s son is a high school senior and wants to go to Indiana University. Larry Bird quit IU after only 24 days of his freshman year.

“I told him, ‘If you get in, I hope you last longer than I did,’ ’’ Bird said, chuckling. “I don’t think the Birds do too well at IU.’’

His daughter is a high school junior.

“She’s already looking at different schools,’’ said Bird. “I saw her on the Internet today and I was like, ‘What’s that?’ And she said, ‘That’s BU, Dad.’ I said, ‘I’d like to see you go there.’ ’’

Me, too. Just to see the look on Larry’s face when he gets his first tuition bill from Boston University.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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