In honor of the Indiana Pacers’ 40th anniversary season, let’s stroll down memory lane and gather some all-time picks:
MVP: Reggie Miller
First team: center Mel Daniels; forwards Roger Brown and George McGinnis; guards Reggie Miller and Vern Fleming
Second team: center Rik Smits; forwards Billy Knight and Chuck Person; guards Mark Jackson and Don Buse
Third team: center Jermaine O’Neal; forwards Dale Davis and Herb Williams; guards Freddie Lewis and Johnny Davis
Best player that would have made the all-time team if not for injury: Clark Kellogg
Best sixth man: Detlef Schrempf
Best coach: Slick Leonard (Larry Brown, Larry Bird tie for second)
Worst coach: Dick Versace
Best owners: the Simons
Worst owner: Sam Nassi
Best general manager: Donnie Walsh, although Mike Storen rates a close second. Best team: The 1997-1998 Pacers (Miller, Jackson, Smits, Davis & Davis, Jalen Rose, Derrick McKey, Chris Mullin, Austin Croshere, Freddie Hoiberg) get a slight nod over the 1973 Pacers (McGinnis, Daniels, Brown, Donnie Freeman, Billy Keller, Darnell Hillman, Gus Johnson, Don Buse), but I would have loved to see them in a seven-game series.
Best personnel decision: ignoring popular sentiment and going for Reggie Miller over Steve Alford in the 1987 draft
Second-best personnel decision: acquiring Mel Daniels from the Minnesota Muskies
Worst personnel decision: trading Antonio Davis for Jonathan Bender
Second-worst personnel decision: not drafting Larry Bird as a future pick and going for Rick Robey (and Bird won’t let Leonard forget it)
Best playoff performance: Sorry, Reggie. In Game Four of the 1970 ABA Finals, Roger Brown scored 53 points, hitting 18 of 29 shots and 14 of 16 free throws. He also had 13 rebounds and six assists.
Biggest shot: Byron Scott’s jumper that won Game One of the 1994 Eastern Conference first round against Orlando. That set the table for all the playoff success that followed. Best individual moment: Reggie Miller’s eight points in 8.9 seconds against the Knicks to win Game One of the 1995 Eastern Conference semis
Biggest victory: Sorry, ABA fans, but it was the Game Six victory at New York in 2000 that put the Pacers in their first and only NBA Finals.
Toughest loss: the Game Seven defeat to the Bulls in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals
Best franchise moment: Opening night at Conseco Fieldhouse and honoring Indiana’s all-time top 50 players on Nov. 6, 1999. The sight of Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and John Wooden together is one never to be forgotten. Worst franchise moment: the brawl at Palace Hills Best good news/bad news: being absorbed into the NBA, but at a cost ($3.2 million) that nearly drove the Pacers out of business Best individual season: George McGinnis in 1974-1975. He averaged 29.8 points, 14.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.6 steals, plus hit 35.4 percent of his three-pointers.
Best player when you needed a good quote on deadline: Antonio Davis Best coach when you needed a good quote on deadline: Larry Brown Best community moment: The Save-the-Pacers telethon in 1977. Kids emptying their piggy banks. Imagine that today. Best hair: Not even close. Darnell Hillman. Worst hair: Dick Versace Best dunker: Hillman, again Best thief (of basketballs): Don Buse Best rebounder: Mel Daniels Best passer: Don Buse Best defender: Derrick McKey Best in-traffic scorer: Billy Knight All-defense team: Ron Artest, Derrick McKey, Don Buse, Dale Davis, Herb Williams All-whack team: Ron Artest, John Williamson, Warren Armstrong, Mel Bennett, Reggie Harding Best player-owned nightspot: Sorry, “Seven.” Bob Netolicky’s “Neto’s” in the Meadows set the all-time standard. All-nickname team: Travis “Machine Gun” Grant, Charlie “The Razor” Edge, Roger “The Rajah” Brown, Johnny “The Rebel” Neumann, Darnell “Dr. Dunk” Hillman, Bill “Fig” Newton, Wayne “Six” Pack, Chuck “The Rifleman” Person, Tom “Dog” Thacker, Sam “Big Smooth” Perkins, LaSalle “Tank” Thompson, Gus “Honeycomb” Johnson, Jerome “Pooh” Richardson The “We hardly knew ye” team: Byron Dinkins, Dick Grubar, Darvin Ham, Ralph Jackson, Tracy Jackson, Butch Joyner, Clyde Mays, Gerald McKee, Richard Morton, Willie Smith, Jack Thompson and Sedric Toney all played no more than two games as a Pacer. All-stiff team: Dwayne Schintzius, Bruce Kuczenski, Greg Kite, Greg Dreiling, Mark Strickland, Mark Pope Best/worst injury: George McCloud sprained his ankle while talking on the telephone. Best mascot, animal: Boomer Best mascot, human: Marvin Cooper, aka Dancin’ Harry Best uniforms: the pinstripes Best in-game music: Leo Sayer’s “Long Tall Glasses” Best halftime act: “Quick Change” Best radio play-by-play: Mark Boyle Best radio analysis: Slick Leonard Best TV play-by-play: Jerry Baker Best TV analysis: Clark Kellogg
Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.