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.