NBA: Bird officially steps down as president of Pacers

Apr 12, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (6) stands behind the baseline as Pacers president Larry Bird watching during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

(The Sports Xchange) – The Indiana Pacers officially announced Monday that Larry Bird is stepping down as president of basketball operations.

Kevin Pritchard, the team’s vice president of basketball operations/general manager, will assume Bird’s position.

Bird will remain with the Pacers in an advisory role.

“I felt it was time to step away in a full-time capacity,” Bird said in a statement. “This has nothing to do with my health or our team. I’m 60 years old and I want to do other things away from basketball. I will do some scouting for the Pacers, NBA, college, international, do some appearances and stay in a capacity to advise senior basketball management.

“I love the Pacers, I grew up with the Pacers and admired them from a very young age. I want to thank the fans for their support throughout my career. I also want to thank Herb Simon for the many years of loyalty and for allowing me to stay with the team in a different role.”

Pacers owner Herb Simon said he is not surprised with Bird’s decision and has the “utmost faith” in Pritchard.

“This is not a shock to me as Larry has always been up front about someday stepping down,” Simon said. “I thank him for all that he has done and am very pleased he is remaining with the Pacers in a different capacity.

“I have the utmost faith in Kevin taking over. He has learned from a couple of great ones, Donnie (Walsh) and Larry, while with the Pacers. We all feel he will do a tremendous job.”

Bird was the president of basketball operations for the Pacers from 2003-2012, winning the NBA’s Executive of the Year award in 2012, before stepping away for a year, citing health reasons. He took on the role again before the 2013 season.

Bird, the Hall of Famer as player with the Boston Celtics, first joined the Pacers organization in 1997 when he was named head coach. As coach, the Pacers went to the NBA Finals in his final season in 1999-2000, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

The Pacers finished this season with a 42-40 record before being swept in the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Indiana lost all four games by a combined 16 points.

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, an Indianapolis native, crossed paths with Bird while coaching at Butler University.

“I’ve obviously admired (Bird) since he played for the Celtics and I thought that he did a tremendous job as a coach and front office person in Indiana,” Stevens said. “When I was there, the runs they went on for all the years he was there was really impressive. So whatever he chooses to do and look forward to, we certainly all wish him the best.”

The 49-year-old Pritchard has been with the Pacers for five years, first as director of player personnel before becoming general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations/GM. The Bloomington, Ind., native previously was general manager for the Portland Trail Blazers from 2007-10.

“I want to thank Herb, Larry and Donnie for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime,” Pritchard said. “As someone who grew up in Indiana, I’ve always felt the Pacers’ pride. The goal is always going to be the same as it has been through Donnie and Larry: to make this a world-class organization.”

Pritchard played collegiately at Kansas and was part of the Jayhawks’ 1988 national championship team. He played in the NBA with Golden State, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and Washington.

After playing, he was the coach/general manager of the Kansas City Knights of the ABA, winning a championship in 2002. He then scouted for San Antonio, became Portland’s director of player personnel in 2004 and in the 2004-05 season was the Trail Blazers’ interim coach for 27 games. In 2006, he became Portland’s assistant general manager before becoming GM in 2007.

“I’m very happy Kevin is stepping in and glad another Hoosier is in line to take over this job,” Bird said. “He has a lot of experience from the past five years as a GM and he’s ready to step into a leading role.

“With us, he has had his own ideas on the draft, players, and now he gets an opportunity to push his basketball abilities to the forefront. His role will be no different than mine was. He will make all final decisions on all basketball-related matters. There can only be one voice and it will be his.”

(This story has been refiled to fix the dateline)

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