Is Larry Bird done in the NBA?

As of May 1, Larry Bird is no longer the Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Operations. That’s a big deal, as he’s held that title since 2003 (except for 2012-13 season, when he took a one-year sabbatical).

“It’s a pretty decision for me,” Bird was saying last week as he discussed his decision. “At my age and I feel healthy. I think everything came together. It’s just time to go. I really enjoyed it here. I love Indianapolis. I love living here.”

Bird, from French Lick, Indiana, coached the team, despite having no head-coaching experience, from 1997-2000 and led the franchise to the NBA Finals in his final year. The Los Angeles Lakers, led by Shaq and Kobe, handled the Pacers in six games but it was a huge step forward for the team.

After three years, he said the team needed a new voice so he stepped aside. If not for The Brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Pacers were well on their way to winning a title during the 2004-05 season.

A few years later, basketball operations responsibilities became his after longtime executive Donnie Walsh left to clean up the Knicks’ mess in New York. Over the last several years, Bird has made it clear that he is year-to-year, with a handshake agreement in place with owner Herb Simon.

“I know last year after talking to Herb, I told him that this would be my last one, contract-wise, and the next day I brought Kevin and Peter Dinwiddie into my office and told them that this would be my last year, let’s do our best, let’s try to put the best team we possibly can together,” Bird explained. “There’s not a lot of people that knew it, at least four or five.”

Talk about the burden those “four or five” had to carry, knowing the 2016-17 season was more than likely it for Larry Legend. That could not have been easy. As of the announcement, Bird had not yet called the players to inform them.

Bird, who turned 60 in December, will remain with the franchise in an advisory role. He doesn’t yet know how often he will be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse or if he’ll even have an office. The basketball staff’s offices will all move across Delaware Street in two months to the St. Vincent Center, their new $50 million practice facility.

LOOK: St. Vincent Center Update: February 6

“I want to stay busy, and we’ll see how it goes,” he said.

On May 1, 2017, Bird officially moved into an advisor role with the Pacers. So, is this it?

After Bird’s recommendation, Kevin Pritchard, his apprentice of sorts since 2012, was promoted to President of Basketball Operations.

“Wow, this seat already feels a little hot,” Pritchard joked as he sat down for an introductory-of-sorts press conference. Bird never did face much scrutinty in this town. “What do you say to someone who has absolutely given you an opportunity of a lifetime? Larry is an amazing man. He’s tough, he cares about the Pacers. We talk every single day about the Pacers, and I’ve learned a lot about basketball.”

It’s far too soon to know how Bird might advise Kevin Pritchard and Peter Dinwiddie, the VP of Basketball Operations. Pritchard has yet decided if he will fill his old general manager seat.

“If we have a free agent, Larry will be in the meeting,” Pritchard suggested. “Larry is still a consultant. Larry would do anything for the Pacers that he can to make it better. And as a consultant, it’s really him and I having weekly dialogues and texting.

“He worries about stepping on toes, I do not. I have the upmost respect. He has one of the best basketball minds that’s ever lived. I see Larry as a person that sits beside me at meetings and says, ‘Hey Kevin, what do you think about this?’ And that’s kind of what I’ve done to him in the last few years.”

[Larry Bird delivers Indy’s 2021 NBA All-Star Game bid to NBA’s New York office.]

The crazy thing to ponder is whether this is it for Bird, who entered the league in 1979. He’s a three-time NBA MVP (1984-86), and been voted both Coach of the Year (1998) and Executive of the Year (2012). Nobody else has that trifecta. Oh, and he’s a three-time NBA Champion (1981, 1984, 1986).

There have already been rumors about other teams considering him for leadership positions. It would be shocking to see him accept a similar gig over the new few years. In three years, maybe he is restless, can’t play golf because of his back, and misses his daily fix and conversations with friends in the NBA.

Is staying on as a consultant something he really wants to do, a HR formality, or maybe it’s a way to ensure a successful transfer of power and also have his health care covered? It’s obvious that he cares about the franchise and wants to help, but he says family time is also important.

“My wife is pretty excited about it, even though she’s sad because she loves Indianapolis and she loves to go to the games,” Bird said. “She’s been involved with this, the run that I’ve been on, since sophomore year in college. It’s been a long time. Sometimes I think you got to step back and look at everything. And truthfully, I just want to spend more time with her and my family.”

At least for the short-term, Bird remains committed to this city and living here.

“We’re in Indianapolis,” he said. “We’re committed to Indianapolis. We love it up here. Unless it’s real cold, this is the place to be.”

There once was at least four Birds working at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. After Larry moved into an advisory role, only one remains.

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