June 29, 2011
The Indiana Pacers' exacting search for a coach, and the team's recent move to swap the untested-yet-talented rookie Kawhi Leonard(notes) for a stable vet in George Hill(notes) speak directly to team president Larry Bird's mindfulness of his One Last Chance at getting it right. The Pacers made the playoffs in 2010-11 for the first time in five years, and though the roster is stacked with young talent, it really doesn't hint at future third or even second-round appearances to come.
That doesn't bother Bird, who could be in his last year with the Pacers and, presumably, working for an NBA team. After all, if his hometown club can't sway him, who would? Especially with former teammate Danny Ainge deservedly ensconced in Boston.
Two things are certain. One, by his own admission, Bird isn't long for the job. And second, as long as Bird is running the Pacers, he's going to take his time and try to get it right.
"It's at a point now in my life where I think it might be time to really reconsider and see how long I want to do this,'' said Bird, now 54. "They asked me to stay another year through the lockout season, the owner did, for a favor. I was leaving, but he asked me to stay, and I will and I'll get the job done.
"I just think the franchise is in a good position right now, and I want to leave it in a good position for the next guy to do some good things. Sometimes you just look at it and say, 'Hey, I've done enough. I've got it in the position I want to get it in,' and you move on. I've got another year here and I'm going to try to do the best I can to get this team back to winning.''
This also brings up the uneasy thought that perhaps the Pacers are better off without Bird running things. After all, team personnel chiefs that lord over four straight years of missing the playoffs before a limited 37-win team sneaks in the backdoor of the postseason while working in front of the league's worst attendance don't usually get to pick their own shots.
Of course, few could ever shoot like Larry Bird. Let's enjoy his turn while it lasts.