Pacers Give Front Office Abrupt Makeover
The 2011-12 NBA season ended just a few days ago, but major changes have already hit one of the league’s young, emerging teams ahead of the draft and free agency.
The Indiana Pacers are coming off an extremely successful abbreviated season, winning 63.6% of their games, securing the third overall seed in the Eastern Conference and even taking a 2-1 series lead over the eventual champion Miami Heat.
Shortly after Miami ultimately took care of the Pacers, it was reported that owner Herb Simon wanted president Larry Bird to return and implement a new three-year plan as they ascended up the NBA ladder.
Bird’s return was in question, as it has been in recent years, and so was that of general manager David Morway. Most of the team’s executives worked under one-year contracts this past season, but one would imagine that Simon would opt for continuity given the team’s strong core and all the work that was needed to turn around a once-troubled franchise.
After it was reported that Bird would likely return, news broke that he wanted to replace Morway with Kevin Pritchard, who served as director of player personnel in 2011-12. Pritchard, formerly the general manager of the Blazers, has made numerous stops in his career as an executive. He has strong ties to Indiana, having been born in Bloomington. Pritchard was the starting point guard of the 1988 National Champion Kansas Jayhawks and also played a season with Bird for the Celtics (1991-92).
Another important member of the front office is Peter Dinwiddie, who has served as director of basketball administration since September 2008.
Speculation then swirled that Donnie Walsh, who left the Pacers in 2008 for the New York Knicks, could return to the Pacers as he was spotted attending their predraft workouts this month.
This further clouded Morway’s future and began to put some doubt into how prominent of a role Bird would have going forward. A front office consisting of Walsh, Bird and Pritchard would be star-studded, but perhaps the trio would prove to have too many opinions.
The construction of Indiana’s front office began to look clearer on Tuesday morning when Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star broke the news that Bird would leave the Pacers.
A few hours later, Morway “resigned” as general manager.
Morway was hired by the Pacers in 1999 and was given the title of general manager in April of 2008. He acted as Bird’s right-hand man and helped make numerous decisions that allowed the franchise to reverse course coming out of the end of the Jermaine O'Neal, Reggie Miller, Ron Artest era.
Morway interviewed for the vacant general manager position with Portland, but the job ultimately went to Neil Olshey. When he was passed over for the job, it was believed that he would return to the Pacers. Then rumors began to surface that Bird wanted Pritchard to replace him.
In what could go down as a true turning point day in Pacers history, Wells reported Tuesday evening that Walsh would become president and Pritchard would serve as general manager. They will hold a press conference Wednesday morning that should confirm the front office changes.
Walsh and Pritchard are extremely capable basketball minds with a history of success, but it remains to be seen what the changes will mean for the Pacers this summer. Bird and Morway did a lot of heavy lifting flipping this roster into one that can be exciting and successful, while also representing the community in a positive manner. The Pacers climbed from 30th in attendance in 10-11 to 22nd in 11-12.
With a number of big decisions coming, including how to use the 26th pick, Walsh and Pritchard have to get on the same page quickly.
Roy Hibbert will be a coveted restricted free-agent across the NBA, as will George Hill. The two were vital to Indiana’s success this past season and Hibbert has become the most beloved member of the team, thanks to the ‘Area 55’ section at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and his interaction with the fans.
Regardless of what they do with Hibbert and Hill, the Pacers will also have some money to spend should they so choose. The trade market will be surveyed as well.
With all the changes in the front office, there is no way to gauge yet what the Pacers might be looking for, but Brandon Roy has already been mentioned.
He would appear to fit the mold of someone the Pacers would like and the prematurely-retired guard has an established relationship with Pritchard from their time together with the Blazers.
There are a lot of moving boxes coming in and out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse this week and it remains to be seen exactly how the distribution of power will be spread between Walsh, Pritchard and anyone else that emerges as a high-ranking executive.