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Indiana coach rejects Pacers offer

Bird calls it quits

Posted: Friday, June 23, 2000

INDIANAPOLIS -- Already off the court as coach, Larry Bird said Thursday he had turned down a front-office job with the Indiana Pacers and would not take any other job in the NBA for at least a year.

''With Larry, once he tells you something, that's it,'' Pacers president Donnie Walsh said.

Bird, who coached the Pacers for three years and took the team to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, never wavered from his intention to step down at the end of the season. He was offered a job as Pacers director of basketball operations but said all along he was leaning toward a complete break from basketball.

''I want to take some time off to rest, spend time with my wife and kids, then decide what to do,'' Bird said in a prepared statement. ''The last three years have been a great experience. While our goal was to win a championship, I'm still very proud of what the players accomplished.''

Bird, who was given an option of becoming team president after Walsh retired, said in February he was "90 percent'' certain he would retire altogether.

He later backed off that, but after the loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals this week he said he was leaning toward returning to his home in Naples, Fla., where he and his wife already have enrolled their children in school for the fall.

Bird met with Walsh on Wednesday, a day before his decision was announced at a news conference at Conseco Fieldhouse. Bird did not attend.

''The way he put it to me, he really didn't know what his plans were going to be after that, but right now he just wants to take time off and think about it,'' Walsh said. ''He thought it was a great experience, but he's not ready to commit to go forward in the future. I'm really sorry to hear that, because I would have loved to have him here.''

Bird compiled a 147-67 regular-season record, the best three-year record in team history. The Pacers also won two Central Division championships, one Eastern Conference title and lost to the Lakers in six games in their first trip to the finals.

The three coaching candidates Walsh has talked to are Pacers assistant Rick Carlisle; Sacramento assistant Byron Scott, a former Pacers player; and Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, who played at Indiana University.

''There are no frontrunners. There's no nothing,'' Walsh said. ''Basically, I've said the same thing throughout.''

Besides finding a new coach, Walsh also must deal with six free agents, including starters Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, Jalen Rose and Rik Smits, whose contracts expire July 1. Austin Croshere and Sam Perkins, two of the top reserves, also will become free agents.

''Everybody has pluses and negatives,'' Rose said. ''The fact is, we want somebody that's going to come in and help us win, and somebody that's going to bring an exciting style of play that the fans can come and enjoy."

''We want to win the championship, and we want to win a lot of games. So whoever's going to get that goal accomplished is who I would choose.''

Rose, who was named the NBA's most improved player this season, said he wants to return to the Pacers.



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