Larry Bird stepped down as the Indiana Pacers’ president of basketball operations following a season in which he won the National Basketball Association’s Executive of the Year award.
Bird, 55, held the job for four seasons and had an agreement with team owner Herb Simon on a year-to-year contract because the Hall of Fame player wasn’t interested in a long-term deal.
“I’ve had a number of health issues,” Bird said during a televised news conference. “I think this is the right time.”
Bird’s departure comes the day before the NBA draft and three days after the Indianapolis Star reported that his predecessor, Donnie Walsh, will return to the Pacers’ front office.
Walsh, 71, was out of the NBA last season after stepping down as the New York Knicks’ president of basketball operations in June 2011. He spent three seasons with the Knicks following 24 years with the Pacers.
“What you have here now is a true team, and there’s a different feeling when you’re with a true team,” Walsh said.
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 Knicks.
Bird helped reshape a team that made the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since 2006. Indiana had a 42-24 record last season, finished second in the Central Division behind the Chicago Bulls and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals before losing to the eventual-champion Miami Heat.
Bird is the first person to receive the NBA’s top executive, Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year awards. Red Auerbach, Frank Layden and Pat Riley are the only other people to take both top coach and executive honors.