Despite a recent endorsement from his bosses, Larry Bird is set step to down as Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations, a newspaper is reporting.
An anonymous source told the Indianapolis Star that Bird is “100-percent sure” he will not return next season.
Last month, Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Jim Morris said if Bird left the Pacers it would be his choice.
“[Pacers owner] Herb Simon has said without question that he’d like Larry to stay with the franchise,” Morris said. “In our minds, Larry can stay just as long as he wants. Herb Simon and I have a lot of confidence in what he is doing. We are hopeful he will be here for a long time.”
Morris could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning. Pacers spokesman Greg Schenkel said the team could not comment on the situation.
Bird this year completed a three-year plan to rebuild the team. After several losing seasons, the Pacers finished with the fifth best record in the National Basketball Association and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The team was eventually defeated in six games by the Miami Heat, which went on to win the NBA championship.
Team sources said Bird is scheduled to meet with Pacers owner Simon later Tuesday. The last three years, Bird and Simon have operated on a series of one-year handshake deals. Bird had said he didn’t want to make a long-term commitment to the job.
Bird this month indicated to local media members that he was ready to remain for at least one more season. He also said he needed to talk to Simon about how much the team could commit financially to improve the team. It's not clear why Bird had what appears to be such a sudden change in heart.
Bird indicated some frustration over Simon's unwillingness to go after unrestricted free agents. Securing unrestricted free agents can be an expensive endeavor because the team for whom the player last played has the opportunity to match any offer by another team.
Team sources also said Bird might have become unsettled by the prospect of former Pacers President Donnie Walsh returning in some capacity to the team next year. Walsh, who hired Bird to the Pacers front office, left Indiana in 2008 to become the president of the New York Knicks. But things didn't work out for Walsh in New York and he left the team following the 2010-11 season.
Simon this week is meeting with several team executives in Indianapolis to evaluate the team and its future direction.