INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A year away from basketball has rejuvenated Larry Bird.
Now he wants to win a championship.
Bird, the former NBA star who left his job last season after rebuilding the Indiana Pacers and winning the league’s executive of the year award, will be reintroduced to the media Thursday morning as the president of basketball operations. That’s the same job Bird held from 2003-12.
“The year off gave me a chance to reflect, to rest, to take care of some health issues and it re-charged me,” Bird said in a statement issued by the team.
The move is hardly a surprise.
He reportedly met earlier this month with Sacramento about becoming that team’s general manager and had become a regular in recent weeks as the Pacers held public draft workouts, making his imminent return one of the worst kept secrets in Indy. Following Tuesday’s draft workout, general manager Kevin Pritchard even alluded to the fact that Bird appeared on the verge of making a comeback.
“He’s ready and I couldn’t be happier,” Walsh said. “I had a great year last year with this team. It is a great group of guys who have the potential for some great things and to remain a part of this, with two people who I love to work with and respect greatly, is very special.”
As a player with Boston, he won three championships, three MVP awards, was twice the MVP of the NBA Finals and retired in 1992 as one of the greatest players in league history.
In 1997, he returned to the bench this time as coach of the Pacers _ his home state team. He was the 1998 NBA coach of the year and two years later led the Pacers into the franchise’s only appearance in the NBA Finals. Indiana lost that year to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games, and Bird retired after the season in part because of health problems.
Three years later, he came back to the Pacers in a front office job.
Under Bird’s guidance, the Pacers returned to the playoffs in 2011. Bird’s shrewd moves included a draft-day trade for Roy Hibbert and another draft-day trade for George Hill, the signing of free-agent power forward David West and the selections of Paul George and Lance Stephenson in the 2010 draft. Those five, and Danny Granger, produced the franchise’s first playoffs series win in seven years last season, and it was those five, without Granger, that pushed Miami to the limit in Indiana’s first conference finals appearance in nine years.