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Pacers owner to keep Bird as team president

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The Indiana Pacers have replaced their coach, but they'll keep team president Larry Bird at least through the season.

Owner Herb Simon told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he believes Bird has performed well under difficult circumstances, and he could be back next year. On Sunday, the Pacers fired coach Jim O'Brien and replaced him with assistant coach Frank Vogel.

"I still have an incredible amount of confidence in Larry and his basketball acumen, his winning tradition," Simon said. "The way he deals with the basketball side is the way I believe it should be done. I'm very satisfied."

Some fans have grown restless because the Pacers have missed the playoffs for four straight seasons. Many have been critical of Bird, an Indiana native and former Boston Celtics star.

Bird took full control of basketball decisions after the 2007-08 season, when former CEO Donnie Walsh left to become the New York Knicks' president. The Pacers went 36-46 in 2008-09 and 32-50 in 2009-10. The Pacers have an 18-27 record this season, 17 games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics.

Bird was hired as team president in 2003 and shared in basketball decisions with Walsh. He arrived before the infamous brawl between Pacers players and Pistons fans in 2004. Later, several players had problems with the law, and the team decided to make talent-depleting trades.

"Even though he's had some tough years, there's a lot of reasons that we can explore why we've had such a tough time," Simon said. "He was left a very difficult situation — no cap room, big contracts, a lot of problems he had no control over."

This is the final year of Bird's contract. Simon says he and Bird will meet after the season to discuss the future. He said Bird's desire to remain in the role will carry significant weight.

"He's going to evaluate where he is in life, and we will listen and wait for him to tell us what he thinks we should be doing," Simon said. "Ultimately, I'd like to get his recommendation of what he wants to do. If it's something I'm comfortable with, I'll do it."

The Pacers are building around veteran forward Danny Granger and young talents such as center Roy Hibbert, forward Tyler Hansbrough and guard Darren Collison. Bird traded for Collison in the offseason to give the team the point guard it needed, and the Pacers will have salary cap space to get other pieces before next season.

Simon said Bird deserves credit for giving the Pacers a chance to be competitive in the coming years.

"If you look at our roster, you look at our players, you look at the cap room we have, the whole picture, he's done exactly what he said he would do, and he's put us now in a pretty good situation for the future. It's a very, very good job he's done."

Simon said he expects Bird to be a Pacer in some capacity next season.

"Larry is someone the franchise will always want to be associated with in some way," he said. "Larry's a very independent person, and we'll await his decision. I think he wants to be involved with the franchise."

Bird said he doesn't know which way Simon is leaning.

"When I talked to Mr. Simon, he had some concerns about some things," Bird said. "I told him I wanted to wait until after the year is up and sit down and talk about it and see where he wants to go. But I know if I'm not here, whoever's here, they're sitting in position to turn this thing around."

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  • agreed!
    I have no beef about Bird. In fact, I think we currently have the makings of a very good team within 2 to 4 years. I just wouldn't put the pressure on Granger to be the leader. Let the leader emerge naturally, if there is one.
  • How soon they forget
    First...does anyone remember how long it took to put together the last good Pacer team? It was years...Reggie Miller was in year 8 of his career before he started to become the Reggie who led the team. Smits took a full 5 years to develop...Dale Davis 3 years, Antonio Davis played in Greece for 2 years before he spent 3 years developing here. Larry Brown was given a lot of credit for the turnaround, but he would not play Jalen Rose on a bet. the Pacers were in the hunt for 4 years before the final piece, Mark Jackson, was in place. The complainers here are nuts...they are the same people who demanded that we get rid of our criminal players...get rid of Artest, Jackson, Tinsley...it was not like he could get a lot for them, when the Indiana lynch mob was going to string them up (which they deserved). Bird has done a great job, given the circumstances. He did what the fans asked...got rid of the criminals on the roster, drafted relatively well (don't forget , Danny Granger was the 17th pick in the draft...he may not be Lebron James, but he is a helluva player for the 17th pick...you don't get Michael Jordan with the 17th pick) Has he made a mistake or two...sure, he stuck with O'Brien way too long, a pick or two has not panned out yet, although if you give Hibbert,Hansbrough, Rush, Price, George, the 5 years that it took Smits or the Davises to turn into quality NBA players, most of his picks still have plenty of time. The same people who are complaining now thought Donie Walsh was an idiot too when he was building the last good Pacer team...the negative comments on this page are from people who know nothing about basketball, or building a team from the ground up. We can't do a Miami or Knicks thing here...we were not on Lebron's list of desired destinations, and we are not on Melo's either. Bird is not the problem with this team...youth is, and eventually, youth will be served. Rumor has it that if Bird decides not to go on in the job, Kevin Pritchard will take over...if he does, the complainers on this page will give him all the credit for turning it around, even when he is doing it with Bird's players, and the cap money that Bird left him with.
    • Bird needs to go
      Even loosing armies replace their generals. Time is up for Larry Bird
    • Larry Bird
      I have my doubts that Larry can put a winning team together. It would help if Granger would play with the same fire we saw parts of last season. Maybe he is playing hurt? Did you know the Pacers have A. J. Price and T. J. Ford on the bench? They didn't play much under O'Brien. Maybe Vogel will use all of his players.
    • Weak Foundation
      Building a team "around" Granger is a non-starter. Which is what Granger himself should become if he doesn't get over himself and up his game.
    • What?!?!?
      The Pacers have been a disaster ever since Bird got involved!!!! The Celtics can have him back, get him out Simon!!!

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