Eddie White: Its time for Around the House. We’re taking a look behind the scenes with the Pacers, the Fever, Conseco Fieldhouse. We’re looking in the kitchen. We’re looking in the bathroom. We’re looking in the drive way. Everything. We’re looking around the house. And who better than the guy who owns the house, who runs the house, the boss, our owner, Herb Simon. Mr. Simon, how are you?
Herbert Simon: How do you do today?
White: I’m doing wonderful, sir. Take me back - the streets of New York. You are a young lad - 8, 9 years old, maybe playing stick ball or listening to the Giants or the Dodgers. If someone came up to you and to say, “Come over. I’ve got an ice cream cone for ya. You are going to grow up and you are going to live and be successful in Indianapolis, Indiana.” What would you have said?
Simon: Really? I never would expect that. Yes.
White: The story of how you got out here is incredible. Please share it with us.
Simon: Well, just an older brother of mine was stationed out a Fort Benjamin Harrison. Decided to get married to a local woman and stay here. And he was involved peripherally with some real estate at the time. And I was just graduating college and he just kept insisting that I come out and join him. And of course, I was … couldn’t think of Indianapolis after New York, but he finally convinced me and it was the best decision I ever made in my life.
White: When you look back at those early years in New York, there had to be some things that built at your core, your foundation that made you and your brothers successful. You brought that to your business; you brought that to the Pacers. What are some of those things that you look back and go, “boy, when I was little, this little thing that my dad told me or my mom told me…”
Simon: I don’t think it was any one thing, but I think especially with Mel being the oldest, he knew that he had to get out of the Bronx someday, and there were bigger worlds to conquer. And, he just dragged me along with him.
White: Way back when, in the early 80’s what was the motivation for you guys to say, “You know what, we will buy this basketball team.” You know, its one thing to be a fan and sit in the stands and buy tickets – another thing to have that gumption and just go, “OK, we’re going to buy this thing.”
Simon: Well, really we weren’t the type of owners that were seeking to buy a basketball team. We were minding our own business, building our company. And the powers to be, the mayor and a bunch of other citizens came to us and said that the team is about to be sold and moved to Sacramento and we need to keep it here and would you and your brother buy it? So, we looked at each other and said, “Sure.” That’s how it happened. Little did I know that they went around trying to sell it to other people in the city and they all said no. But we were very happy we bought it and now our desire is to make this thing economically viable so this thing can stay here long after I’m gone.
White: There is an owner with the National Football League named Dan Snyder with the Washington Red Skins, he once said, “It took me a while, but I figured it out. I may own the Red Skins, but the team belongs to the fans and to the people of DC.” Do you understand that? Do you get what he is saying?
Simon: Yes, not only for the fans, but for the community and the city and the … it’s a very important part of our community here, our way of life. It adds to everything. So, yes, we know its way beyond just the owner.
White: People were … one of the things that separates the Pacers, I think from other teams in then NBA and in the NFL to be quite frank, is you built a management team here, a senior team, that is like a Mt. Rushmore of our civic and sports leaders – Jim Morris, everybody knows him, Rick Fuson, Larry Bird, I mean this is a Mt. Rushmore. With those people, what is your role exactly as the CEO and the owner and how do you blend in with those guys?
Simon: Mainly, as a second guesser.
White: You are probably pretty good at that.
Simon: I really believe that you hire good talented people and you let them run their sections. And of course they ask for my input and I give my input, but I’m really satisfied with what each one of those people do and they do very well.
White: Your franchise has brought many memories to fans on the court and many good things to people around the state with, I think you have one of the most aggressive community active organizations in all of sports. When you look back, what do you want your legacy to be and this team’s legacy to be here in Indianapolis?
Simon: Well, I want us to be a very important part of the community. I want us to give back to the community. I want to bring joy and excitement to the fans. Just like this guy did for a couple of years, Reggie Miller. And I want to get back to those times of excitement and we are on our way.
White: We wish you the best. Thank you so much for being the first guest, the inaugural on Around the House.
Simon: Thank you.
White: Thank you. Take care. God bless.