Report: Larry Bird leaving Indiana Pacers

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  June 26, 2012 07:57 AM

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According to a report in the Indianapolis Star, Larry Bird has decided to leave his position as president of the Indiana Pacers.

The 55-year-old Celtics legend is “100 percent sure” he will not return as president of the team, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Star on Monday.

Bird is expected to meet with owner Herb Simon today to finalize his departure.

More from The Star report:

Bird spoke like he was planning to return for another season during his season-ending news conference last month.

“(I want to talk to 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,” Bird said May 30. “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.”

Bird, who is dealing with some health issues (reportedly back and shoulder related), will likely take a year off before deciding if he wants to return to any sort of front-office position.

His departure comes just three days after The Star reported that Bird’s predecessor, former CEO Donnie Walsh, is expected to return to the franchise in some capacity. There’s a possibility Walsh will take Bird’s title of president.

Bird was voted the NBA’s Executive of the Year in May, becoming the first person to be named the league’s top executive, coach and MVP.

“It was a long journey, it was a painful journey," Bird told reporters in Indianapolis when he won the honor. “But now we think it’s going to pay dividends."

Bird, a three-time MVP and Hall of Famer, was hired as the Pacers team president in 2003 and learned the ropes at Donnie Walsh’s side. He helped put together one of the best teams in the league in his first season, a 61-game winner that seemed poised to rule the Eastern Conference for years to come.

Then he endured the franchise-changing brawl at the Palace in Detroit in 2004 that gutted a championship contender; a series of arrests and public embarrassments from his players in the following seasons that alienated a hoops-crazy fan base; and three coaching changes as he looked to change the culture of a free-falling franchise. A four-year playoff drought had many in his home state calling for Bird’s head, a startling fall for someone who once could do no wrong in Indiana.

A fed-up Bird started a massive overhaul in 2006. The house-cleaning took years and included the trades of Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Shawne Williams, the exile of Jamaal Tinsley and the move from hard-driving head coach Jim O’Brien to unproven 38-year-old assistant Frank Vogel.

“We had to change the culture," Bird said. “I thought Jimmy O’Brien really helped us in that aspect. He came in here and knew exactly what we had to do. We had to not only change the culture, but we had to take it slow and get some players we thought we could build around."

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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