Larry Bird denies report he quit Pacers president job in frustration over lack of spending

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NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird disputed a report about his exit from the Indiana Pacers organization on Wednesday, saying “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The report in question claimed that Bird stepped down from his job as president of basketball operations with the Pacers in 2017 because of frustration with the team’s lack of big spending. Bird claimed his exit came simply because it was time for him to move on.

Larry Bird disputes report on Pacers exit

Bird’s statement, from the Pacers:

"A published report indicated that I left my position as President of Basketball Operations in 2017 because ownership was not willing to spend "big money" and that it frustrated me enough to step aside. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want everyone to know I left there because it was time for me to move on from the Pacers. I had worked with Kevin Pritchard and at that time I felt Kevin was ready to take over and he has proven that. I can't thank Herb and Mel Simon, along with Pacers Sports & Entertainment, for the opportunities to, at first, coach, and then later move into the front office."

The original rumor came via ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan on a July 15 episode of “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” and was dredged up by NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman on Tuesday:

Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.

Larry Bird speaks after resigning from his position as Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations during a news conference Monday, May 1, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Larry Bird's been out as Pacers president of basketball operations since 2017. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Bird has had a relationship with the Pacers since the year he retired in 1992, first joining the team as a special assistant in the front office then taking over as head coach in 1997. The Indiana native later became president of basketball operations in 2003, a position he held until 2017 outside of a one-year hiatus in 2012-13 due to health issues.

The 63-year-old Bird remains with the team in an advisory role, with Kevin Pritchard occupying the general manager position.

This isn’t the first time that the Pacers, one of the NBA’s smaller-market teams, have had concerns about spending emerge. As Feldman notes, the team hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2006 despite competing for the playoffs most of those years, and former All-Star Paul George cited frustrations with the front office as a reason for his departure.

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