Pacers to own Fort Wayne Mad Ants – ‘This is a very significant day for Pacers Sports & Entertainment’

The Pacers have purchased the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

The Pacers have purchased the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

It’s been a busy offseason for the Pacers adding additional assets. First, a couple of draft picks. Then, a couple trades and the signing of four more players.

A couple weeks ago, at the end of August, Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) announced their plans to build a practice facility, which is expected to cost about $50 million.

Now, less than three weeks before the team opens training camp, they have added another asset that will benefit the entire organization.

The Pacers have purchased the last remaining independent NBA Developmental League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the organization announced at a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne. Terms of the deal were not immediately available, but this is a big step for the organization.

“This is a very significant day for Pacers Sports & Entertainment,” said PS&E Vice Chairman Jim Morris.

Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird said team owner Herb Simon was hands on with the purchase.

“We’re here today because of Herb Simon,” Bird said. “We had opportunities to look at other franchises, go different places, but when it came right down to it, he wanted this franchise.

“Matter of fact, he took over the negotiations and don’t ask me what he paid for it. I have no idea. But he wanted it, he’s got it, and now it’s up to us to use it to our full potential.”

Click here to listen to Larry Bird’s comments, or play in the embedded player below.

[audio:|titles=Larry Bird on the Pacers purchase of the Mad Ants]

How big — or rather, important — was the announcement? Among those in Fort Wayne for the press conference: PS&E President Rick Fuson, CFO Kevin Bower, Sr. VP of Marketing Todd Taylor, VP of General Counsel Frank Pulice, the entire front office, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel and more.

D-League Digest first reported that the Pacers were finalizing a deal to buy the Mad Ants back on August 1.

With the Pacers’ purchase of the Mad Ants, their D-League affiliate since 2007, all 19 D-League teams have a single-affiliate relationship with an NBA team. Over the last year, the Toronto Raptors bought a team and the Charlotte Hornets announced their intention to start their own next year.

The Pacers have privately discussed plans and a number of goals in having their own team. It’s likely that some employees would move to Fort Wayne to help build and grow the organization, and also be a great opportunity for those individuals to gain valuable on-the-job experience. They want their culture to extend up to Fort Wayne.

[Click here to read full comments from Simon, Morris, and Bird.]

Pacers General Manager Kevin Pritchard has been a big advocate of the minor leagues for those wanting to work in sports because you have to wear every hat.

“We are excited to build on the team’s success in Fort Wayne while using it as a training ground for players, coaches and front office personnel,” Bird said in a statement.

Individuals associated with the Mad Ants have been through Bankers Life Fieldhouse recently, including Brian Levy, who was formally named General Manager. The 31-year-old spent the last five years working for the Bakersfield Jam, including the last three as the assistant GM and a scout for the Phoenix Suns.

The coaching staff has not yet been finalized. Conner Henry, the team’s head coach for the past two seasons, left in June to become an assistant for the Orlando Magic so that is one of the first big decisions to make.

“He’s a terrific addition for what the Indiana Pacers hope to accomplish as a franchise and partner with the Mad Ants,” Pritchard said of Levy. “His energy and enthusiasm will guide the Mad Ants to continued success.”

Having an affiliate that is just two hours away is a notable advantage. The Pacers want uniformity — and by now owning the team, they’ll be in charge of decisions and be able to have a coaching staff that runs a similar scheme.

“Over the years, I never thought very much about sending players up here,” Bird said. “We have occasionally but it seemed like we were really getting in their way. They’re trying to win games on a nightly basis. We send a player up here, and maybe he gets one practice in, he don’t know the offense, and obviously we wanted him to play 35 minutes a game. But [Team President] Jeff [Potter] is trying to win basketball games. And the coach is trying to win.

“What we’re going to do is try to implement our offense and defense to the coaches up here and keep it pretty similar to what we’re trying to run down with the Pacers. And if we can tie it all in, when we send a player up for a few games or a half of year, he can fit right in — and he can come right back to us and fall right back into place.”

Indiana will conclude its seven-game preseason schedule with a meeting in Fort Wayne against the Charlotte Hornets on October 22. Tickets go on sale at 2:00 p.m on Thursday and will cost between $6 and $37.

The Mad Ants won the 2014-15 D-League Championship and reached the finals again, but were swept by the Santa Cruz Warriors. The Pacers began utilizing the ability to send players down to the Mad Ants back in 2012. Players like Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson, Solomon Hill, and Shayne Whittington previously had stints with the team.

With three rookies and a handful of inexperienced players on the roster, the Pacers plan to take advantage of the D-League more often. Purchasing a minor league team played a factor in the team signing young guys like Rakeem Christmas and Glenn Robinson III, for example.

“I see us moving more players up here,” Bird continued. “We have a lot of young players, a lot of good, young players. But after you practice for two or three weeks and you don’t get in no games, what a better opportunity than to come up here and play five or ten games.”

Asset building continues for the Pacers — and Wednesday was a positive step.

One Response to Pacers to own Fort Wayne Mad Ants – ‘This is a very significant day for Pacers Sports & Entertainment’
  1. […] Pacers to own Fort Wayne Mad Ants – ‘This is a very significant day for Pacers Sports & Ente… – “This is a very significant day … a few games or a half of year, he can fit right in — and he can come right back to us and fall right back into place.” Indiana will conclude its seven-game preseason schedule with a meeting in Fort Wayne against … […]

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