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Larry Bird no longer has an active role with the Indiana Pacers
The Hall of Famer worked for the Pacers for more than two decades. But he was notably absent all season and from pre-draft workouts.
LAS VEGAS — There was a glaring absence of a giant figure at the St. Vincent Center for more than just the last few months.
He was not at the Pacers’ practice facility for any of their 14 pre-draft workouts and not once did I see him at a practice or game during the 2021-22 season.
Bird even passed on attending All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, where the NBA celebrated the top 75 players of all-time last February. He was one of about 10 living players who did not attend.
That was not a surprise to the Pacers. I have been told for months that he no longer has an active role within the franchise, and in my recent conversation with Kevin Pritchard, the president of basketball operations, he confirmed that was the case.
“Yeah, he’s not active,” Pritchard told Fieldhouse Files. “But look, Larry is a good friend of mine and he’s a good friend of Rick’s (Carlisle). At any time we need help, we know where to look. He’s always available.”
It was different not to see Bird around during draft workouts in May and June because that was one thing, I’m told, that he enjoyed. He liked the process of evaluating players, seeing who competed and excelled in the moment.
You can be sure that players always recognized when Bird was in the gym. That applied an additional pressure, a good pressure for the draft hopefuls. And afterward, players eagerly made the walk over to shake his hand.
Bird, who is 65 years old, worked for the franchise for more than two decades. He stepped down as president of basketball operations on May 1, 2017. He is still listed on the staff directory as the advisor to the president of basketball operations. That’s Kevin Pritchard, who was promoted into the seat vacated by Bird.
“It’s a pretty decision for me,” Bird said back in 2017. “At my age and I feel healthy. I think everything came together. It’s just time to go. I really enjoyed it here. I love Indianapolis. I love living here.”
In one of his final acts as team president, Bird drove a custom IndyCar down Fifth Avenue in New York City to deliver the franchise’s NBA All-Star bid, which was successful. However, it was pushed back three years, to 2024, due to the pandemic.
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So where is he? What is Larry Bird doing now?
Bird sold his longtime home on the north side of Indy and he seems to be spending most of his time down in Naples, Fla.. He also has had a home in Brown County, Indiana — where it’s low-key and he can live his quiet life.
He’s now a grandpa and his son, Conner, recently got married.
Bird played a role in Rick Carlisle returning to the Pacers last summer. I called him that day and he kindly declined to about it; he hasn’t done any interviews for several years. And again, he chose not to attend a special event for the NBA’s greatest players.
Meanwhile, Donnie Walsh was happy to talk about it and said Carlisle returning is “a very good hire.”
Team owner Herb Simon has had stability in his leaders running the team. He’s the longest-tenured owner and next year — 2023 — will mark 40 years since he and his late brother, Mel, purchased the Pacers.
In that time, he’s only hired three individuals to run his team: Walsh, Bird and Pritchard.
Donnie Walsh retired at the end of 2020 and Larry Bird is no longer around. He’s a three-time NBA MVP (1984-86), and been voted both Coach of the Year (1998) and Executive of the Year (2012); nobody else has done that. And he’s also a 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA Champion (1981, 1984, 1986).
The only place Bird can be seen is in Capital One commercials that aired during March Madness.