Larry Bird is Introduced as Indiana Pacers Head Coach
May 12, 1997 Frustrated with his largely ceremonial duties as special assistant to Celtics owner Paul Gaston, Bird begins to pursue other options.
On this date, he is introduced as head coach of the Indiana Pacers, signing a five-year, $22.5 million deal four days after the Celtics name Rick Pitino coach and president. "I wanted to be involved," Bird says. "I wanted to be out there being competitive every night."
The Celtics employed Bird as a special assistant in the team's front office from 1992 until 1997. In 1997, Bird accepted the position of coach of the Indiana Pacers. Despite having no previous coaching experience, Bird led the Pacers to a 58-24 record—the franchise's best as an NBA team at the time—in the 1997-98 season, and pushed the Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals. He was named the NBA Coach of the Year for his efforts, becoming the only person in NBA history to have won both the MVP and Coach of the Year awards. He then led the Pacers to two consecutive Central Division titles in 1999 and 2000, and a berth in the NBA finals in 2000.
Bird resigned as Pacers coach shortly after the end of the 2000 season. In 2003, he returned as the Pacers' President of Basketball Operations, where he oversees team personnel and coaching moves, as well as the team's draft selections. The Pacers promoted David Morway to general manager in 2008, but Bird still has the final say in basketball matters.
On May 12, 1997, Bird was named head coach of the Indiana Pacers. Even though he had never coached a game in his life, the Pacers had no qualms about turning over the reins to Bird.
"This guy is the epitome of everything I've tried to do here," Pacers President Donnie Walsh said of Bird. "When I started here, I wanted to see the high school, college and professional basketball worlds come together, and Bird symbolizes that. I also really believe he can be a heck of a coach.
"He pulls people together. When he talks, you come into his world. That's what a coach has to do."
Despite joking that he hoped he could get the Xs and Os right in the huddle, and that he didn't draw up any plays with himself in them, Bird approached his new role with typical aww-shucks aplomb.
"I'm new at this (coaching) game but I feel I can get the job done," he said. "I have all the confidence in the world that I'll be able to handle these guys and do the things that are necessary to win games."
Bird did a fine job in his three seasons on the bench. In his first season, the Pacers with Reggie Miller as it's main weapon, were defeated by the defending champion Chicago Bulls and Jordan in a tough seven-game conference finals series. And in the 2000 NBA Finals, the Pacers succumbed in a six-game series to the Lakers, led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, for the Lakers' first of three consecutive titles.
Bird resigned as Pacers' coach after that NBA Finals appearance and has attempted to come back to the league in an ownership capacity. An avid outdoorsman who also has a passion for country music, auto racing, golf and the St. Louis Cardinals has many interests. He also owns "Larry Bird's Boston Connection," a hotel/restaurant in Terre Haute that also serves as a museum for many of his trophies and awards.