There are sveral very good article up on Indystar.com preview section and now several more up on Pacers.com. Here is one
Bird’s Impact Subtle, yet Profound
By Conrad Brunner
Indianapolis, April 16, 2004
The tone for the best regular season in Pacers franchise history was set the night before training camp, when new Coach Rick Carlisle asked new President Larry Bird to address what was very much a new team.
“He got up there for about 3½ minutes,” Carlisle said. “It was very short and to the point.”
That’s Bird’s style. He treats words like money, spending them wisely. Perhaps it’s because he knows their value.
“Basically, he said, ‘You guys have a lot of talent in this room,’ ’’ Carlisle said, recalling the talk. “ ‘It’s not the same group that was here last year but I’m telling you if you commit to each other, play hard and play together you have an opportunity to have a very special kind of year. The only other thing that’s got to happen is this cannot be an excuse team. We’ve got to be a team that’s accountable. When we lose, take our losses like men and work on getting better. I just don’t believe in excuses. You either win or you get your *** beat.’
“He basically put it in those words. And the seriousness, the matter-of-factness of his tone really was an important message sent early to our team that I think carried us through some tough times early and onto what has been a very successful season to this point.”
Bird’s first season as President of Basketball Operations was an unprecedented success. The team won a franchise-record 61 games, the most in the NBA, and earned homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, which begin Saturday at 1 p.m. against Bird’s former Boston team in Conseco Fieldhouse.
Though Bird spent most of his time in the background, his presence in the front office had a profound influence on the players, Carlisle said.
“He really has been a major force here, but in a very understated way,” Carlisle said. “There’s things he wouldn’t want me to talk about. He’s talked to a lot of our players privately from time-to-time about a whole host of different issues, whether it’ s how to approach a big game, how to deal with officials, how to do a better job of making your teammates better, he’s given the right doses of direction and information and guidance. And yet he’s done it in such a way that he’s stayed out of the limelight and behind the scenes. To have that type of presence in your front office, that type of resource, is one of the great things we have here.”
As a head coach from 1997-2000 – with Carlisle as his offensive coordinator -- Bird guided the team to the Eastern Conference Finals three times and the NBA Finals in his final season. Now, his first year atop the front office has been an overwhelming success to this point.
There’s no magic to his approach. He stresses accountability, demands responsibility, tolerates no less than a strict work ethic and accepts no excuses. It’s a formula that has worked wonders for a young team that has eliminated the erratic tendencies that doomed last season.
“They had a lot of things that went on here the past few years I didn’t agree with, and it was time to start playing basketball,” Bird said. “You get paid to play. You get paid to put on a show for your fans. It’s all about winning in this league.
“It’s a no-nonsense approach. It’s about playing basketball, playing together and winning, and they’ve done a good job. They’ve done a lot more than I thought they could do the first year, but I know they’ve got a lot of talent. … We have a lot of players on this team who are very young and they’re going to do things, at times, that we don’t agree with. But overall, I think our coaching staff and the leaders of this team have come together and come to grips that we’re going to have problems and we’ve got to eliminate them just as soon as they happen.
“Ronnie (Artest)’s maturing. He’s done great on and off the court. Jermaine (O’Neal)’s matured a lot. At the start of the season, we didn’t know which way he was going to go because he was disappointed in the changing of the coaches. But right now everything’s good and we’ll see what happens.”
Though the Pacers lack successful playoff experience, Bird is confident they have the makeup to make a run this postseason.
“I think they can, because we have two All-Stars,” he said. “I think we have the best defensive player in the league and we’ve got a good bench. We’re deep. I think we can make a good run.”
The key, he said, will be avoiding the emotional mood swings that can doom a playoff team.
“The playoffs are a roller-coaster ride,” he said. “You have a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Winning one game means nothing. It’s the first one to four and that’s all that matters. If they stay focused and stay together, don’t worry about the past game and move forward, they’ve got a good chance.”
Bird doesn’t like to compare this team to the group that reached the NBA Finals because they are so different. The 2000 team was a veteran group that had been the conference finals five times in seven years, constantly knocking on the door. These Pacers have yet to make it past the first round.
“I think this team has more raw talent than the team that went to the Finals but the team that went to the Finals had a lot more playoff experience,” he said. “They’d been to the Eastern Conference Finals a number of times and they finally got over the hump. This team is young and can be aggressive. They know how to play the game. If they stick together, they’re going to go far.”
What about comparing the coaching of those two teams?
“(Carlisle)’s better than I am,” Bird said with a smile. “He knows what he’s doing.”