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Bird gets chance to finish the job

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

May 10, 2011

Larry Bird will get the chance to finish the job.

Bird, who delivered on his promise of a playoff team in his third year at the helm, will remain as President of Basketball Operations, Pacers owner Herb Simon said today after the two met in Los Angeles.

Simon said he was "quite pleased" with the team's improvement in 2010-11, which included a 20-18 record under interim coach Frank Vogel and the first playoff berth since 2006, and said he was "glad Larry is staying to help us continue in the positive direction we are going."

There was no announcement as to the term of the agreement. Bird is working in the final year of his contract. Simon also said David Morway will remain as General Manager.

Bird said one of his first priorities will be "to address the coaching situation."

The list of candidates begins with Vogel, who took over for Jim O'Brien on Jan. 29 and instituted the changes that led to the team's turnaround. Bird and his staff -- most of whom also are at the end of their contracts -- can also dive into preparations for the June 23 NBA Draft while evaluating possible trades and free agent signings assuming the league's marketplace opens in July.

Bird's status was uncertain after his remarks in an April 28 press conference that he hoped to remain but would wait until meeting with Simon to make his decision.

Since taking over from Donnie Walsh in 2008, Bird has almost completely turned over the roster while cutting the payroll. Of the 15 players that ended 2010-11 with the Pacers, 13 were drafted, acquired or signed in the last three years. The only two that pre-date Bird's tenure are Mike Dunleavy and Jeff Foster, who are among the team's five free agents.

Joining Dunleavy and Foster on the free-agent list are T.J. Ford, Josh McRoberts and Solomon Jones as the Pacers reportedly will clear roughly $34 million from their payroll, giving Bird unprecedented salary cap space with which to continue to build the roster.

"We're in a great situation here," he said in April. "We do have some young talent that obviously they've got to get better as they grow, but we're in position where we can be a player in the free agent market. I know the type of players I'd like to get, it's just a matter of if we can get 'em."

Bird made it clear in April he enjoyed his job and felt confident about his ability to make moves necessary for the Pacers to compete at a higher level in the Eastern Conference.

"I've always said there's 30 jobs like I have and I think it's the best job you could possibly have," he said. "Yeah, there's some ups and downs but I've been in this business for 31 years, I know a little bit about it, I enjoy it, I love the games and I really love the playoffs for some reason and I really like my players.

"I've seen them grow. I know we have a lot of holes we have to fill but we're in a situation now where we can do it. I don't know if we can do it all next year but we've got to continue to get pieces and put this thing together."