Bird had discussed the team’s coaching options with owner Herb Simon, saying he wanted to see how the team performed on a Western swing against the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Portland and Denver.
The Pacers lost all four games.
“We were in three of the games, and the Denver game, we didn’t really have a chance,” Bird said.
“We came home to Orlando, and really, the game was over in the first three minutes,” Bird said. “So that’s when I really started thinking that we really probably needed to do something. I called Mr. Simon up and he said, ‘whatever you want to do’ and so, here we are.”
Assistant coach Frank Vogel will take over for the rest of the season. He has been a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards, and served as an assistant coach for O'Brien in Philadelphia and Boston.
Bird was bothered by O'Brien’s refusal to give more minutes to the team’s young players. Bird said he’d like to see rookie Paul George play more, and he was frustrated with how little forward Tyler Hansbrough played early in the season. He felt that O'Brien’s public berating of center Roy Hibbert damaged the 7-foot-2 center’s confidence. Bird and Vogel agreed that Hibbert is an important piece of the team’s future.
Bird also said he would like to see rookie Lance Stephenson get onto the court. The second-round draft pick has not played this season.
Many fans criticized O'Brien because he constantly changed lineups, at times leaving players inactive, then suddenly making them starters and sometimes leaving players who were performing well on the bench for long stretches.
Vogel said continuity is important, but he’ll be careful.
“You want to have a steady rotation, but if you’re losing games, how do you stick with a steady rotation?” Vogel said. “We’re trying to find combinations that work, and you’ll see that play out over the next few weeks.”
The Pacers were one of the league’s leaders in field-goal percentage defense early in the season, but Indiana allowed more than 110 points four times during its six game skid.