By CLIFF BRUNT
I interviewed new Pacers president Donnie Walsh on 6/29 and talked to him about Larry Bird, his experiences in New York and the future.
Q: What was it like to watch your protÃ©gÃ©, Larry Bird, rebuild the Pacers?
A: œWell, I was really proud of the job he did. I always knew Larry would be a good general manager because I worked with him as a coach and I knew that he knew what the elements of the job were. Then, when he came in and worked for me, we went over it and he saw how to do it, so when I left, I was pretty convinced that he would do a great job. We had kind of gotten ourselves in a hole there, so it wasn’t apparent, but I was watching him as he, step by step, started to rebuild the team. So I was very proud of him. I had no doubt he would do it.
Q: How is Larry different than you in terms of how he runs things?
A: œI think as far as how we look at the game, not a whole lot different, he said. œWhenever we talked, we usually never disagreed on the fundamentals of what it took to have a good team. I didn’t know each move he would make, but I was pretty sure where he was headed. And it’s really because Larry is going to take a balanced approach that is very fundamental to basketball.
Q: How long do you plan to do this?
A: œI told somebody on radio today that I want to do another 30 years, until I’m 101. I don’t see this going on too long, but now that I’m doing it, I’m enjoying it. I can’t predict how long I’m going to do it.
Q: What did you learn from your experience as team president New York that you will bring here?
A: œThat was a completely different ball of wax because No. 1, they hadn’t made the playoffs in seven or eight years and hadn’t been a winning team in 10 years. They had a couple of really good players there, but their (salary) cap was way out of line, so you couldn’t go in there and trade those players because you wouldn’t have gotten value, and you just would have taken one salary for the next. So I thought the only way you can make a change here is to break it down completely. I knew it would take two years. By the third year, you can start building it back up. So by my third year, we made the playoffs, we had a winning record. We got Amar’e and Carmelo by then, and I thought, ˜OK, we’ve got the ingredients now,’ and so that’s when I left.
œOnce they get a training camp, which, they have not had Amar’e and Carmelo together, you’ll see a big difference in that team. They’ve got to add some more parts, but the ingredients are there.
Q: Larry has talked about how the team needs a superstar, a player who can break teams down off the dribble consistently. Is that guy on the roster already?
A: œI think that he could be on the roster because we have very young players here. It isn’t like we traded for Carmelo Anthony, who you know can do that, or a LeBron James or somebody like that. So it has to come from somebody in here. Or, if it doesn’t ¦ all this has to come in a team concept and so then you’d have to see if you can develop that somewhere else. But right now, I think that could be here, and I want to see it myself because I haven’t, other than playing them “ I haven’t really been a part of this.