Larry Bird will build Pacers around his head coach

April 29, 2010
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There’s a simple reason why Indiana Pacers basketball boss Larry Bird didn’t fire Coach Jim O’Brien. And it has nothing to do with Bird’s belief that O’Brien can turn around the Pacers’ flagging fortunes.

The reason sits on the Dallas Mavericks’ bench.

You see, Bird has never gotten over the firing of his friend, Rick Carlisle. Deep down, Bird thinks he betrayed his long-time friend, and in the process himself.

For once, Bird let the tail wag the dog, and now he’s determined to never let that happen again.

This whole scenario should tell Pacers fans a lot about Bird’s mindset—which by the way, he never intentionally sheds much light on.

While Bird was a players’ coach during his three-year stint on the Pacers bench, he’s become distrustful of at least some and probably most of the 12 men who play in between the lines and whistle blows in the blue and gold. He sees them as movable parts in his basketball machine.

He has become a coach’s GM. He has come to see the coach as the pillar with which all things must be built around and on. You can see this in his recent public statements about players needing to get used to the coach because the coach isn’t going anywhere.

Bird knows well that O’Brien might not be his man. But he is reminded by watching Carlisle pilot the Mavericks to the second best record this year in the Western Conference this year what siding with the players has cost him.

The Mavs may drop their first-round series to the San Antonio Spurs (they trail 3-2), but that won’t change Bird’s mind about Carlisle being the one that got away.

So you’ll see O’Brien play out his contract next year. After that you’ll see Bird go after someone in his own mold, a premiere no-nonsense coach who will stay put and build the team.

If the players cry about the coach or tune him out, you’ll see them moving on long before Bird parts prematurely with another coach. Expect to see Bird honor his coaches' contracts. Expect him to bring in and keep the players' his chosen coach wants, never the other way around.

And best yet for the Pacers, I think Bird’s approach is one in the end, that blue and gold faithful will find very appealing.

  • Lots of Assumptions
    Wow - you give lots of credit to Bird for actually having a thought or plan - let alone being able to execute it. I have seen no evidence of either of these in recent years.
  • Carlisle no better than O'Brien
    Carlisle didn't build the Mavs team. He's coaching a better bunch of players than Bird brought here. If he were still here, the Pacers wouldn't have done any better than they did with O'Brien - maybe worse. The Pacers need re-tooling, from top to the bottom. People who know how to build and a coach a team.
    The Pacers are still reeling from the fight in Auburn Hills. Artest, Jackson, Tinsley, et. al. are responsible for this meltdown. Sure, Walsh brought them in, but they are responsible for their own actions. Whether its Bird, Carlisle or O'Brien, I agree w/ Scoop, they need to be rebuilt, from the bottom up. They need a top 5 draft pick to build around, not necessarily a specific coach. The coach is an important piece of the puzzle, but only a piece. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for good results in this years lottery!
    TOTALLY agree with you BK. Couldn't have said it better.
  • The CBA is the key
    Assuming you are accurate the next Collective Bargaining Agreement could be exactly what makes your assessment realistic. I see no way the players don't lose something in the next CBA. The current arrangement makes it too difficult to replace players so it is much easier to replace the coach. Assuming their salaries are reduced and other things happen to reduce the players control then yes building around your coach may work - under the current NBA structure this makes no sense unless you want to miss the playoffs every year as you will have zero chance of getting the talent needed to win a division much less a championship. The Pacers have to be one of the worst teams in the NBA when you look at their salaries versus their number of wins. You would be better off with a team at the minimum salary expense under the CBA requirement - you certainly wouldn't have a worse record than this bunch has produced - you might break even as an owner and you might get a shot at a top 5 draft pick. This team is the worst of all worlds - over paid - under performing and no chance to get a top free agent or a top draft pick. I would hate to see them leave but wouldn't lose any sleep if they did.
    TOTALLY agree with you BK. Couldn't have said it better.
  • Agree with Scoop
    Furthermore, if Bird is thinking this, he is jeopardizing another year to sub-par performance by sticking with O'Brien. This is a business. Bird needs to go, so does Morway and Oâ??Brien. And if Herb isnâ??t commented to winning, he needs to sell the team. Heck, with 6.1 millions Hoosiers, tax everyone $50 and weâ??ll buy the team. Then I wonâ??t feel so bad about paying the $15 million through the CIB annually.
    • Tuned Out!
      The players totally tuned O'Brien out this past year. How can anyone be optimistic about next year with him as the leader. So, we can look forward to another year of lower ticket sales and the same lousy record.
    • WRONG!!!
      WHO WROTE THIS ARTICLE???? It talks about the playerâ??s need to get along with the coach or he will â??moveâ?? them?? Thatâ??s continuity for you!!! The only way you win in this league is to have players that know each other and can work together. When you keep bringing in 6 or more new players EVERY year, you are NOT going to win. KICK THEM BOTH TO THE CURB!!!!
      I also like how it says, he became â??distrustfulâ?? of the players on the court? PLEASE!!! We went to the NBA Finals in his last year as coach. And as far as Carlisle- the players- good players- had tuned him out. He is only winning in Dallas because he was handed a team with a bunch of talent and his owner cares and is willing to spend whatever money it takes to win!!!
      CRAZY sportswriters!!!
    • Don't Shoot the Messenger
      AS is just trying to rationalize some of this crap seeping from CFH.
    • Larry Bird
      So we are DOOMED to another losing season because Larry won't fire the coach, and he knows this going in? Great. I hope the next CBA does away with guaranteed contracts, because this is what has killed the Pacers.
    • Don't Blame the CBA
      The Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Mavericks have all flourished under the current CBA. Blame Donnie Wlash for the crazy Bender and Tinsly contracts. Donnie did one thing right - Reggie Miller - and that carried him and the Pacers for a long time.
    • Let's all be owners
      That's a great idea. Let's become the Green Bay Packers of basketball and let people buy the team!
    • amazing turn for Bird's image
      It really is amazing how quickly Larry Bird's legacy in this town has turned. He was beloved as a player and a coach, but as a basketball operations executive, he is constantly being roasted. I'm not saying that is right or wrong, I've just never seen the public (especially not here in Indiana) turn on one of its favorite sons so quickly. I'm not a Larry Bird defender, but in all fairness, the guy has only had the reigns of the team for two years. Pacers fans, further enlighten me as to your thoughts on Bird.
    • Bird
      In my opinion and I went to nearly every game during the Bird coaching years, I am not sure he said 10 words a game. With Miller, Jackson and Rose, did you need a coach? I think back to him rooted for the Celtics in the 2008 finals - he's not a Hoosier - he is a Celtic.
    • Let Bird run it his way
      If the media and everyone else would let Bird do things that need to be done the Pacers will be better off. Larry understands the the players on the court need to look a lot more like the vast majority of fans in the stands. When he mentioned this about three years ago the media attacked him as being racist. Just watch most NBA teams and when the majority of players on the floor are black they will almost never get the ball to the white guy when he is open for a good safe shot and some times just plain keeps the ball away from him. one of the reasons the recently completed NCAA final tournament game was such a great success and competitive was the players from both teams played together and looked a lot more like the majority of fans in the stands.
    • Yikes!
      Yikes Jerry, take it easy with that talk! Did you realize that Larry Bird recently credited the black servers, waiters and other workers at the French Lick hotels for teaching him how to play the game. You might check out the recently released documentary about Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It might enlighten you about the man and what he stands for. As for the Pacers not needing a coach back in Reggie Miller's days. Nonsense. It wasn't until Larry Brown came along, and then later with Larry Bird until this group of players achieved their potential. Reggie will tell you that much. Same goes for Carlisle. He's helping Mavs achieve their potential. That's what any good coach does. Phil Jackson isn't winning with scrub players, but very few would dispute his prowess as a coach.
    • Legend
      Anthony, I am one that will never roast Larry Legend. Yes, he has made some mistakes, but Donnie Walsh made quite a few as well, but they were usually masked because of his selection of #31. Has anyone noticed the number of autographs Larry Legend has given to fans during every timeout at a Pacers home game? What other GM does that? His pick of Shawne Williams was a bust, but let's give him some time. Like previous entries have stated, it all started with the jerk Ron Artest and the malice in the palace. A devastating blow to a franchise and the beginning of the downward spiral. You can't blame LB for that, can you? Give the Legend some time, he has earned it.
    • Carlisle
      Carlisle's first round exit is another example of the Bird coaching staff falling short of expections. I still believe that during the Bird coaching years of 1997-2000, the players should be given more credit than the coaches - just my opinion.
    • Pacers need a star
      The Pacers need a star, not a bunch of guys who play well together. Look at the Cavs, Lakers and Magic -- they have at least one big star. Big stars put butts in the seats. The Pacers started to slide when Reggie left; and then the Pistons brawl.

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    1. You are correct that Obamacare requires health insurance policies to include richer benefits and protects patients who get sick. That's what I was getting at when I wrote above, "That’s because Obamacare required insurers to take all customers, regardless of their health status, and also established a floor on how skimpy the benefits paid for by health plans could be." I think it's vital to know exactly how much the essential health benefits are costing over previous policies. Unless we know the cost of the law, we can't do a cost-benefit analysis. Taxes were raised in order to offset a 31% rise in health insurance premiums, an increase that paid for richer benefits. Are those richer benefits worth that much or not? That's the question we need to answer. This study at least gets us started on doing so.

    2. *5 employees per floor. Either way its ridiculous.

    3. Jim, thanks for always ready my stuff and providing thoughtful comments. I am sure that someone more familiar with research design and methods could take issue with Kowalski's study. I thought it was of considerable value, however, because so far we have been crediting Obamacare for all the gains in coverage and all price increases, neither of which is entirely fair. This is at least a rigorous attempt to sort things out. Maybe a quixotic attempt, but it's one of the first ones I've seen try to do it in a sophisticated way.

    4. In addition to rewriting history, the paper (or at least your summary of it) ignores that Obamacare policies now must provide "essential health benefits". Maybe Mr Wall has always been insured in a group plan but even group plans had holes you could drive a truck through, like the Colts defensive line last night. Individual plans were even worse. So, when you come up with a study that factors that in, let me know, otherwise the numbers are garbage.

    5. You guys are absolutely right: Cummins should build a massive 80-story high rise, and give each employee 5 floors. Or, I suppose they could always rent out the top floors if they wanted, since downtown office space is bursting at the seams (