Larry Bird is returning as the Indiana Pacers’ president of basketball operations after taking a year off, saying he’s been re-energized.
Also yesterday, Bryan Colangelo stepped down as president of the Toronto Raptors, a month after he was stripped of his duties overseeing the National Basketball Association team’s basketball operations.
Bird, 56, agreed to a multiyear contract with the Pacers to replace Donnie Walsh, who will remain as a consultant for the club. Kevin Pritchard is still the team’s general manager.
Bird left the Pacers a year ago today, following a season in which he won the NBA’s Executive of the Year award. At the time, the Hall of Fame player said he was concerned about a number of undisclosed health issues.
“The year off gave me a chance to reflect, to rest, to take care of some health issues and it recharged me,” Bird said in a statement. “Donnie and Kevin did a great job and I will lean on both heavily as we move forward toward the goal of competing for a championship.”
Bird, who won three NBA titles playing for the Boston Celtics, coached the Pacers from 1997 to 2000 and joined the team’s front office in 2003, overseeing personnel and coaching decisions. He took full control of basketball operations in 2008 when Walsh left to join the New York Knicks.
Bird helped reshape a team that in 2011 made the playoffs for the first time since 2006. After reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2011-12 -- Bird’s last season -- the Pacers this past year made the conference finals before losing in seven games to the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat.
“We are all very happy to have Larry back,” Pacers owner Herb Simon said. “When he left, Donnie and I both told him the door would be open for him to come back when he’s ready. Larry had a huge impact on this team and where it is now, so it’s fitting that he comes back at this time.”
Bird will officially return to his position on July 1.
“I met with Larry when he wanted to leave last year and I said I would do this until he was ready to come back,” said Walsh, who was the Pacers’ president from 1988 to 2008 and returned to the organization when Bird stepped down. “Well, he’s ready and I couldn’t be happier. I had a great year last year with this team. It is a great group of guys who have the potential for some great things.”
The Raptors said yesterday in an e-mailed statement that Colangelo, 48, a two-time NBA Executive of the Year who joined Toronto in February 2006 as both president and general manager, will become a consultant for the team and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd.
Colangelo’s move out of the general manager job came at the direction of Tim Leiweke, who in April became president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Raptors.
“Having had a better chance to reflect on things for the past several weeks, I have concluded that stepping away from my position is the best course of action for the organization and everyone involved,” Colangelo said in the team release.
Masai Ujiri, the reigning NBA Executive of the Year, on May 31 returned to the Raptors as general manager after three seasons with the Denver Nuggets.
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