These quotes are the highlights of a 30-minute phone conversation between ISL editor Cliff Brunt and David Morway, who stepped down as general manager of the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.
Q: How are you feeling right now?
A: “I’m happy. This is something I spent several months talking to my wife and my kids and Mr. Simon about and Larry. We had a lot of success this year, but at the same time, there was a lot of personal sacrifice that came with it the past few years.
At the end of the day, I felt like I wanted to spend more time with my kids and my wife. Really, I evaluated my personal and professional goals and in doing that, I felt that this was a good time to back away and to see what other opportunities come my way. So, I’m excited about the future, personally and professionally. I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish. Being with the franchise the past four years, we’re leaving it in a lot better place than where we got it, and we’ve got a really great group of young players who have the opportunity to do some great things in the future with an excellent coaching staff and a terrific support staff around them. So I feel good. I appreciate Mr. Simon and Larry and Donnie for the opportunity that they gave me. Not many people get to do this for 14 years with one franchise, so I’ve been really fortunate.
Q: Why now?
A: I love the Indianapolis community and I love being in Indiana, but, you know, there comes a point where I think change is important and I think that this is the right time.
Q: What do you see yourself doing down the road?
A: I want to step away and take some time to evaluate it. I love the game, and I’ve always been passionate about the NBA and I love the job. Along with the job comes a commitment that you need to be able to make that’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and unless you are 100 percent committed to that in the right situation, it becomes – I don’t think you can do the job as well as you need to do it.
Q: You interviewed in Portland this offseason, so it seems there was interest in staying in basketball. Why did that change?
A: I’ve missed a lot of things over the past few years (with wife and two sons), and I just want to make sure I spent some quality time with them. Having said that, that doesn’t mean that I’m getting out, it just means that I felt this was the right time to make a change, and I felt like the franchise was in good shape.
Q: What are you proudest of?
A: I’m proud of the performance of the team this year, all year, on and off the court, and how they represented the community and our fanbase. I was really proud of that. And I was really proud of the fact that through the playoffs, I felt this re-engagement of the fanbase and this pride that when I first came to Indiana in the late ˜90s, I felt all the time. I felt like that was back.
Q: It’s been reported that Donnie Walsh will come back to the team in some capacity. If that’s the case, what does that mean for the Pacers?
A: If Donnie came back, I think that would be terrific for the franchise. He’s my mentor, my first mentor, and was always like a second father to me. He was extremely instrumental, not only in my professional growth, but in my personal growth when I came here to Indiana. Donnie was the first one to give me an opportunity in the NBA. And I look at Donnie as one of the best executives that has ever been in the league. I may be biased, but I think I’m right. He’s brilliant, he’s a great communicator, he knows the league inside and out. He’s got great instincts. I just think he’s as good as there is in the industry.
Q: What is it like working for Bird?
A: Larry is extremely bright and creative. He had such an unbelievable feel for the NBA and for team dynamics, and for how to motivate players and communicate with players and how to build a team that works. So the experience was unbelievable. I learned an unbelievable amount from him.
Q: The rumors out there said Bird wanted to replace you with Kevin Pritchard and made this seem as though it was out of your hands. Yet you’re saying, and the Pacers are saying, that you made the decision. Why the different stories?
A: I’m not going to get into rumors and what gets out. I don’t know where all that stuff comes from. All I know is that there was a lot of speculation because nothing was done for a long time. Larry didn’t make his decision for a long time, and then I have been really quiet for obvious reasons, so there’s going to be – a lot of people say a lot of things. That’s not what’s important. What’s important is the impact. The work we did had an impact on the franchise. We hope we left this team in better shape than when we started, and I hope that as I leave here, that I’m leaving relationships that I’ve had for 14 years that are important, and that I’ve treated people the right way.”
Q: Did the pressure of being a GM become overwhelming? Especially with a family?
A: Donnie Walsh told me a long time ago, he said, ˜David, the only way you can do this job, meaning being a general manager, you have to be obsessed with basketball and the business, and he’s right. I think you have to – if you do it the right way, you’re totally in, then you take a step back, then you recharge batteries, you come back and hopefully, you can do it better than you did it before.
Q: So you leave on good terms?
A: I think change is great. I really do. New ideas, new creativity, new vision and new energy – I think all of that is important for a franchise. However Mr. Simon decides to do this, I think is going to be good for the franchise. I’m sure he’ll make a good decision because he’s a terrific owner.