Want to know what Larry Bird thinks? Just ask.
Former Indy Star sports reporter, Mark Montieth conducts in-depth interviews with local sports legends and personalities for his One On One show on 1070 The Fan. His latest interview is a fabulous discussion with Larry Bird, touching on Bird's youth in French Lick, his career at Springs Valley High School, his brief stay at Indiana University, how he was nearly drafted by the Pacers and his time with the Boston Celtics. He also touches on the NBA labor situation.
Toward the end of the interview, Bird discusses his current job with the Pacers along with the state of the team and his plans moving forward. As you'd expect, Bird doesn't sugar coat anything in the interview. After the jump, more on Bird's comments about the current team along with some of my favorite revelations throughout the interview.
Here are a few items I found interesting from the interview:
- While in high school, Bird's family rarely reacted to his hoops success. He mentions finishing a game with 54 points and 38 rebounds, yet when he went to stay with his Bird grandparent no one mentioned his play even though he saw the local paper in the house.
- Spring Valley High lost a late lead in the high school tournament after one of Bird's teammates missed several free throws late in the game. Bird still gives him grief about it.
- Bird thinks the Celtics let a couple of championship opportunities slip away in the early '80s because some players couldn't handle playing for Bill Fitch and their selfishness cost them a couple of championships.
- Bird vividly remembers the moment that sparked his competitive fire. While playing "Bitty Ball" in fifth grade, his team finally played a team from another town and he he just couldn't wait to beat that team and in his words he felt like he was "King Kong" and his team demolished the opponent.
- He still has dreams of playing and recently had a dream when he won a championship. Usually his dream end poorly.
- No surprise, he loves to "piddle" on his ranch in Southern Indiana by himself. Really enjoys the alone time. Don't we all.
- Now that he's been on both sides of the NBA labor fence, he doesn't think it's fair for the players to get 57% of the revenue when all of the risk is thrust on the owners.
Here is what Bird had to say about the current state of the Pacers:
Montieth: How long do you want to do this job? Do you have anything in mind?
Bird:No, I want to get it back to where it should be. You know we went through a culture change here and a lot of problems. I knew it was going to be rough, Mark. When Donnie left, I knew where we were sittin'. We were up against the tax. We had a couple of players on the team that didn't want to be here. When I sit down and put out my plan, everyone aks, "what plan is it?" Well, my plan is to get a core group of young guys together for a couple of years and win and get in the playoffs. Then have enough money to go out there and fill your roster out. We're still on board with that, all of us are still on board with that and we're moving in the right direction. My goal is to get this thing right before I get out.
Montieth: Do you see yourself doing it for a long time?
Bird:I don't know, Mark. Right now is not a good time, because if we're healthy this year, I think we're going to have a pretty good little team. I really believe in Brandon Rush. I believe in Roy Hibbert. They're both going to get a lot better. I know Danny Granger is one heck of a basketball player. Very, very good basketball player. I think Hansbrough gonna be a monster in a couple of years, a year or two, get him through this first year. And I'm not even counting the veterans that we have. I'm really relying on Rush and Hibbert and Danny getting better and Hansbrough and A.J. Price and then we're going to have two more draft picks. And then we're going to have some money and I think this thing is going to be put together the way the fans of Indiana perceive basketball. I think basketball is very important in this state, and yeah, they follow their college teams, high school teams, but on a pro level I want to give them that opportunity to get back and try to win that championship one more time.
Oh, and Bird isn't bothered by any criticism. As he mention, he "grew up" in Boston where he learned not to let any negatives bother him a long time ago. Notice how he didn't mention any of the bridge players in his future plans. It all makes perfect sense including why making the playoffs is important.
Here's the audio link: One On One with Larry Bird
Kudos to Mark Montieth for an enlightening conversation with Bird. And while you're at it take some time to listen to a few earlier One On One interviews. Of course, Mark Boyle never disappoints. Also, the interviews with Hallie Bryant and Oscar Robertson should be required listening. A compelling and informative history lesson for any hoop fan.