Donnie Walsh to leave Pacers; Larry Bird staying
The Indiana Pacers announced Monday that CEO and President Donnie Walsh is leaving the franchise at the end of this season and Larry Bird will continue to lead the basketball side of the franchise as President of Basketball Operations.
In making the announcement, Pacers co-owner Herb Simon said, “I’ve enjoyed working with Donnie Walsh for 24 years and I’ve gained enormous respect for him as a basketball man and as a person. He ran this franchise with tremendous integrity and honesty and is regarded as one of the very best in the NBA. Larry could not have had a better mentor to prepare him for the work that needs to be done to restore this franchise to the elite level.”
Walsh came to the franchise as an assistant coach in 1984, became general manager in 1986 and has served as president since 1988. In his 22 years of overseeing the franchise, the Pacers won three Central Division Championships and made the NBA Playoffs 17 times with six trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and one trip to the NBA Finals (2000).
“I made it clear from the beginning of the season this would be my last year,” said Walsh. “When I accepted this part of the job 22 years ago it was my dream job and it has lived up to it in every way. There are no finer owners in the NBA than Mel and Herb Simon. They have been friends and supporters throughout. I’ve also been privileged to work with some of the finest coaches and players in basketball as well as a front office that made us a model franchise. I want to thank the fans for their great support over the years and the people of Indianapolis and Indiana for welcoming my family and me the way they did.”
“I’ve talked Donnie into staying for two years after he thought it was time to leave. Now, with my blessings, I wish him the best in whatever new challenges he takes on,” Simon said and added, “we couldn’t be more enthused about Larry’s passion for the game, his understanding of what our fans want and his experience as a player, coach and president.”
“I have worked with Larry Bird, both as a coach and as President of Basketball Operations and I have full confidence he will restore this franchise to the elite level,” said Walsh. “While everyone knows about Larry’s great playing and coaching career, I’ve found him to be a great friend and co-worker. I have every confidence in his abilities.”
In describing his experience with Walsh, Bird said, “I couldn’t have had a better teacher and coach. He’s a basketball genius and one of the best executives in the NBA. What I’ve learned from him, combined with my own experiences, will serve the franchise well going forward.”
Walsh added, “Indianapolis is a great place and it has been a great place for my family to live. We will continue to have our family home here, no matter what my future holds. As for my future, I will look at the options and when I’m clear as to what I will do, I will make a statement.”