INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.— Larry Bird is back. He officially announced his return to the Indiana Pacers at a news conference Thursday morning.
Bird will take over as president of basketball operations, the same position he held from 2003-2012. He took a year off, citing health reason, but he said he is feeling better than ever after watching the team from afar.
“My heart has been in it. I love watching our team play. I had a different experience this year being out of it. It was a different perspective watching them play that way I can understand what we need,” Bird said. “There’s some work to be done. It’s good to be back. We are on the right track here. Hopefully we can move it forward it another step.”
When asked why he thought this was the right time to return, Bird said Indianapolis is his home and where he feels comfortable.
“We got a great team, I know the system,” said Bird. “I know what we need here to fulfill our dreams. The team is going to be good, better than good, the ultimate goal is to win a championship.”
Bird missed out on a very successful season of the team he built. The Pacers finished with a 49-32 record and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the eventual NBA champions, the Miami Heat, in seven games.
But, there is always areas to improve. Bird said the biggest issue to address is the bench.
“Our starters are set, especially if we can get Danny (Granger) back there is still some uncertainty there. If he gets back the bench gets better,” Bird said. “Then we have to get the other players to play better or bring in some guys who will help us. For us to talk about beating the great teams in this league our bench has to get better.”
Speaking of Granger, Bird addressed his future with the team, adding that he has no plans to trade the injured all-star forward. Granger missed nearly the entire 2012-2013 season after having surgery on his left knee.
The Pacers have some work to do Thursday night, the team has a 23rd and 53rd overall selection in the NBA draft. Bird has made a few appearances during pre-draft workouts but he won’t have anything to do with the Pacers picks. That responsibility is for current President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh and General Manager Kevin Pritchard.
Bird will officially take over his new, but old, position on July 1 while Walsh is stepping down to transition into a role as team consultant.
“There has to be one voice, one guy leading the franchise and I came back to do that,” said Bird.
Fox59 will have much more on Bird’s return beginning at Fox59 First at Four.