Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers President, Kevin Pritchard to take over

Pacers front office (Pritchard, Walsh, Dinwiddie, Bird, plus trainer Josh Corbeil) watch practice.

Larry Bird is stepping down as the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations, VigilantSports.com has confirmed. The news, first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, came early Friday afternoon, 24 hours after coach Nate McMillan spoke with the media for a season wrap-up.

“Just talked about the season and a little bit about what we would like to do this offseason. It was a good conversation,” McMillan said.

General Manager Kevin Pritchard, who joined the franchise in 2011, will assume the president of basketball operations responsibilities, the source added.

Team officials are not commenting on the report other than to reiterate that Bird has a press conference scheduled for Monday. Bird has always said that he’s year-to-year on a handshake agreement with team owner Herb Simon.

LISTEN: Podcast on Bird’s decision and how it impacts the organization

Pritchard, I’m told, has been working on the final year of his deal, so a new contract would be necessary for him to continue on with the franchise.

The 49-year-old has been a key piece in what has been the four-headed monster of a front office: Bird, Pritchard, VP of Basketball Operations Peter Dinwiddie, and consultant Donnie Walsh. Wojnarowkski added that “Bird is expected to continue on as a consultant, working with Pritchard and the Pacers front office.”

Pritchard has a great relationship with coach McMillan stemming back from their days together in Portland. He is well-connected across the league and has been the one working the phones, both with agents and other front offices.

This isn’t the first time Bird, who turned 60 years old in December, has stepped away. He took a one-year sabbatical after the 2012 season for health reasons. “The year off gave me a chance to reflect, to rest, to take care of some health issues and it re-charged me,” Bird said then.

This decision comes ahead of what will be a critical summer for the Pacers. Trying to sign Paul George to a contract extension is priority number one. If he is unwilling or makes his intentions to leave clear, then Pritchard and the front office will have to decide what’s in the best interest of the franchise.

George is under contract for next season at $19.5 million, then he has a player option for the 2018-19 season. And so much hinges on whether or not he is voted to an All-NBA team, which will be revealed before the draft.

It may turn out that Bird’s last assist on the court came in re-signing Lance Stephenson, and off of it by helping Indy present its bid for the 2021 All-Star Game to the NBA offices.

The Pacers are coming off a 42-40 season where they qualified for the postseason, for the sixth time in seven years, by winning the final game of the regular season. They then were swept in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Watch Larry Bird’s last formal media session, before the season on Sept. 21, 2016:

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