Larry Bird stunned his Indiana Pacers players at the end of Game 6 by announcing he would be retiring as head coach after the trip to the NBA Finals. The Hall-of-Famer’s decision was met with mixed emotions, but it also left many wondering why Larry decided not to share this information with his team before that game.
Larry Bird stunned his Indiana Pacers players by retiring as head coach after a trip to the NBA Finals. “He’s a different breed,” said one of the team’s assistant coaches. “Larry is so much more than just an athlete.”
Larry Bird had a great playing career, and there was a point when it seemed like his coaching career may be just as impressive.
Before the 1997-98 season, Bird took over as head coach of the Indiana Pacers. He led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals almost immediately, almost dethroning Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Indiana advanced to the NBA Finals only two years later.
The Pacers seemed set to make another championship run with Bird on the bench. Bird’s coaching career, on the other hand, came to an end nearly as quickly as it started. His teammates were perplexed by his choice to retire.
Larry Bird said that he will only coach in the NBA for three seasons.
Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh talk to the media during Bird’s first news conference as head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1997 | Matt Campbell/AFP via Getty Images
Head coaches, on the whole, like to be free to perform their tasks. Working under the pretext of an ending contract, for example, may be a difficult position for instructors in any sport.
Right from the start, Larry Bird set himself an ultimatum.
Bird said when he was hired by the Pacers in 1997 that he only intended to remain on the bench for three seasons. That vow, on the other hand, proved worthless when he led Indiana to the Finals in 1998.
When Bird led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals again in 1999, the three-year rule became stale, and it seemed plain ridiculous when Indiana reached the Finals again in 2000. Despite the fact that Larry Legend’s team lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, players like Jalen Rose grew tremendously during his time as head coach.
If he decides to stay on as coach, the Pacers will almost certainly win a championship. Why throw away a wonderful thing? The players for the Birds were baffled by the strict and quick retirement regulation.
Bird’s commitment to the three-year limit baffled Pacers players.
Almost no one on the Pacers’ roster could comprehend Bird’s decision to leave coaching after such a successful (although short) tenure in Indiana.
During the 2000 NBA Finals, Reggie Miller said that Bird had just recently begun to become more talkative and at ease. Mark Jackson, the point guard, made even more caustic comments.
Bird’s intention to keep his commitment, Jackson remarked (via Deseret News), was admirable, but the vow itself perplexed him.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to” (explain it). I don’t believe anybody can. I like the fact that he made a commitment from the beginning and stayed to it, when many others would not, particularly after seeing what has been done this year. As a result, I respect that. But, you know, he’s a unique individual.”
–Mark Jackson, Deseret News, 2000
It’s probable that several Pacers players hoped Bird would rethink his decision. The Hick from French Lick, on the other hand, stuck to his guns.
Following Indiana’s defeat to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, Bird announced his retirement. Surprisingly, he gave the reins to Isiah Thomas, a former competitor. Since then, the Pacers haven’t been the same.
Bird had a successful tenure as Indiana’s general manager, but the Pacers have yet to reach the NBA Finals.
After leaving his coaching position, Bird had a huge success in the front office of the Pacers. Nonetheless, since he departed the bench, Indiana’s on-court product has been slightly lacking in outcomes.
Bird isn’t to blame for the Pacers’ inability to return to the Finals since 2000. In 2004, Bird’s first season as a head coach, Indiana advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. While the Malice at the Palace put the franchise’s future into disarray, Larry Legend established a winning team during the Frank Vogel era, choosing players like Paul George and Roy Hibbert. In 2013 and 2014, the Pacers advanced to the conference finals in back-to-back seasons.
Despite this, there are just as many lows as there are highs. The Pacers have not returned to the NBA finals since Bird retired as head coach, which is one of the lowest points. That action perplexed his teammates at the time, and it’s likely still perplexing now.
RELATED: During the 1992 Olympic Games, Charles Barkley instantly regretted drinking beer with Larry Bird and the Dream Team: ‘My Head Hurt for Like 2 Days.’
Larry Bird retired from the Indiana Pacers after leading them to their second NBA Finals appearance in 3 years. The team was stunned by his decision, but Bird’s teammates and coaches have said that he is a different breed. Reference: when did larry bird retire.
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