Larry Bird is leaving Indiana Pacers, Walsh to step in

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It had long been the thought around the league that this was Larry Bird’s last year as president of the Pacers. Bird denied it. Directly. More than once.

But in the end, he was ready to leave the Pacers.

Bird is stepping down as team president, reports the Indy Star.

Bird is “100 percent sure” he will not return as president of the team, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Star on Monday. Bird, 55, is expected to meet with owner Herb Simon today to finalize his departure…

Bird, who is dealing with some health issues (back and shoulder), will likely take a year off before deciding if he wants to return to any sort of front-office position.

He almost certainly will be replaced by Donnie Walsh, who is returning to the team he lead for many years before going to New York. While this has not been confirmed it makes perfect sense.

The Pacers are a team on the cusp — they had the third best record in the East last year, led by a young core including Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said recently he was more nervous when he team was down 2-1 to Indy than when they were down 3-2 to Boston. On top of their core, they have a lot of cap space to lure a free agent — if they can land a star they could be contenders in a crowded East.

There also has been buzz that Kevin Pritchard will be bumped up to general manager of the Pacers. Which is a good hire. There is a lot to like for Pacers fans, this should be a smooth transition.