Is Bird's last act a betrayal of Herb Simon?

June 26, 2012
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Larry Bird has long been a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

Most recently, right when you think he’s about to take his next step into greatness, he simply walks away.

So in some ways the news that broke today that Larry Legend is leaving as Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations is no surprise.

If it’s so, his current exit isn’t unlike his departure as Pacers’ coach. He brought the team close to the title, but didn’t close the deal.

The big question is why did Bird tell an Indianapolis Star reporter his plans before he told anyone else. And especially why did he tell a reporter before he told Pacers owner Herb Simon, with whom he is meeting today.

If you know anything about Bird, you know he’s not the kind of guy who has posers, phonies and cronies hanging around him. So you know no one really close to Bird would leak the news before he wanted it leaked.

And if you know anything about journalism, you know you don’t run a front page above-the-fold story with the news that Bird is “100 percent” certain he is leaving unless you’re 100 percent sure of that source. You can bet that Star reporter Mike Wells had to be darn sure of his source--and his editors had to be 100 percent sure he was 100 percent sure--before the presses started rolling.

In other words, no reporter worth his weight is taking this kind of tip from a ball boy, janitor or even a media relations flack representing the team. This sort of tip has to come from the source itself.

So again, you have to ask, why would Bird tell a reporter on Monday that he’s quitting before he meets with the team owner on Tuesday to discuss his future and that of the franchise?

There are lots of reasons why Bird might be quitting. His sore back might no longer be up to the job. He might be sore at Simon for contemplating bringing back his former boss Donnie Walsh and refusing to go after restricted free agents. Or he may just want to spend more time with his family and improving his golf game. 

But why not give Simon the courtesy of hearing it firsthand rather than waking up and reading it in the local daily? Bird is a consummate professional and as near as I can tell has a healthy dose of respect for Simon. I’m fairly certain Bird didn’t do it out of spite.

We know Simon isn't pushing Bird out of the nest. This month, Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Jim Morris told IBJ: "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.”

I suppose Bird, who has spent the last three years working for Simon under a series of one-year handshake deals, could be using Wells as a pawn to put pressure on the owner and pry what he wants out of Simon. But I don’t think that’s Bird’s style.

So there’s only one conclusion. Bird wants the word out there before he meets Simon. He wants this deal—the one where he walks away from this Pacers job—done.

No more handshake deals. No more wait and see. No opportunities for Simon to talk Bird off the ledge.

  • CRAP
    Like most of your other articles, this one is also 100% crap. How did it feel to have Krappitz come on the radio right after you and inform everyone that you basically made everything up? Good performance.
  • Really?
    How ridiculious that you would declare that Larry Bird has betrayed Herb Simon by leaving the Indiana Pacers! All he's done while in their employee is lead them to their only NBA finals as their coach and bring the franchise back from the dead after the "Malice in the Palace!" If that's your definition of a betrayal you need to buy a new dictionary! Larry quit coaching after three years which is exactly what he said he would do when he accepted the position, and it was Larry's idea to have one year deals in his role as GM so he could leave when he wanted to. Where's the betrayal? In addition, intrepid reporter that you are, how do you know Larry didn't contact Mel Simon about his departure before the story was written by Mike Wells?! One last thing, Larry Bird has served the Pacers franchise and the Simon family brilliantly during his tenure with them and he owes nothing to nobody. Enjoy your retirement, Larry!
    • Jim O'Brien
      Once again AS these are good observations. Maybe Bird did call HERB Simon before but I doubt it - then why have the meeting today? Reggie Miller's play and leadership were much more responsible for the Pacers run to the finals than Bird. How do you Bird lovers reconcile bringing Jim O'Brien in to coach with Bird's greatness as President? And then Vogel falls in Bird's lap. With the Walsh rumor, something is going on here. I still believe Larry would work much harder bringing the Celtics back than he ever would working for the Pacers. Just my opinion. By the way, Kravitz is about as accurate as a meteorologist.
    • hard to reply
      It would be hard to reply to Mel since he has passed away. I think you meant Herb
      • Normally I like what you write and defend you Anthony, but today you deserve the wood shed beating. You sound like the speculating hacks who work for ESPN and some of the other sports publications who write controversial articles so they can hear their names. Truth be damned. First, it sounds every bit like Larry is stepping down due to health concerns. It could be his back, or God forbid something more serious. Who are you to question his health problems? We wish him well, with a speedy recovery whatever it is. Second, who is to say that he did not tell Simon? None of us are privy to what his conversations with Herb. I am betting Herb has known for a while what Larry's thoughts were on this and like a good boss told him to take his time to come to the right decision for him. I am sure Herb Simon did not pick up the paper and say "Larry's leaving?". It sounds like you are upset you got scooped. Well so did most of the press. Maybe Larry is friends or at least friendly with Wells. This stuff happens. Many famous folks feel comfortable with certain reporters. Or maybe he knew if he gave it to the Star, they would not be able to release it prematurely. The fact that they held the online eddition until this morning shows they were waiting for a reason. Obviously they could have broken this story late last night, but they didn't. And it was for reason. I have to agree with Domer that Larry has done more for the Pacers than almost anyone else. As stated, he brought the Pacers to a title contender. He brought them back from the dead when most thought there was no hope. Along the way he made some mistakes, but he has done a lot for the Pacers and doesn't need to have his motivations questioned by you.
      • Larry did a great job, and on the cheap.
        First...Anthony, you have done better work than this...Second...CK's comments are ridiculous, with the exception of the fact that Jim O'Brien was a terrible fit for a young team like the Pacers, even though he had had some success in Philly and Boston...Bird worked for way less $$ than most GM's, and almost every decision he made was a good one. O'Brien is pretty much his lone error, and I would concur that was a bad one but...How everything else that has been done constitutes anything other than great work beats me. Don't forget he had to clear out the riff raff first, then start over. As for Bird not being responsible for the run to the finals, I concur that you have to have players to win but...who really empowered Jalen Rose, Austin Croshere, Travis Best, Antonio Davis?...none of those guys was remotely as good a player anywhere else than they were in Indiana...I am sure Bird and his handpicked 2 person coaching staff deserve some credit for that...Reggie was brilliant...indeed he played his best for Bird, better than for Larry Brown or anyone you seriously think Bird had nothing to do with that? The suggestion that he would work harder in Boston than in Indiana is ludicrous, and just not true from a historical perspective. I agree with Avon Domer...Bird owes this franchise absolutely nothing, and anyone taking potshots at the job Bird did or the way he is leaving does not know what he/she is talking about...he has earned the right to do what he wants...he earned his money...the results can not be argued with, we have very good young players, have established ourselves as a young talented force in the league, have a great young coaching staff which Bird is responsible for, and we have lots of cap space to sign current players or free agents with, I don't understand what else you could do in 4 years to make fans happy except do it faster, which was unrealistic...and he had a handshake deal in case the job got to the place where he could not do what he felt needed to be done financially, or if he could not hold up physically, or if he got sick of it...don't know which it is , or if it is Donnie Walsh even...whatever it is, he sure is not breaking a contract...Bird is not perfect, but he certainly delivered as a player, coach and GM. Thanks Larry...I will give you another chance Anthony because I know you are not a Bird hater, but people like CK need to just accept that they don't know what they are talking about.
      • hard to reply
        Pat: Of course I meant Herb Simon and you have my sincerest apologies. At least I got that right in the first reference to the current Pacers owner in my previous piece on this thread. CK: Why would Larry meet with HERB Simon if he's quitting? Could it be that Herb wanted to get Larry's thoughts on each of the coaches and players before he departs and what Larry's on going vision is for the team? Could it be they need to discuss any compensation still owed Larry for his services? In short, there are probably a variety of things they'd like to discuss before Larry walks out the door. Oh, in regards to your comment about Larry having little to do with the team reaching the finals, ask Reggie Miller if Bird had much to do with it. Did Larry have as much to do with the success of that team as Reggie? Well, did Phil Jackson have as much to do with the Bull's championships as Michael Jordan? Of course not on both counts, but that doesn't mean those coaches didn't contribute a lot to their team's success. Reggie played many years for the Pacers and played in the finals on one occasion. Could it be that Larry being the head coach that year had something to do with it?

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