Hi there, If you could for just a moment , indulge me and let me get this out of my system. If for no other reason than to reflect and see how far this organization has come....and how much farther it needs to go.
I grew up on the westside of Indy and like many people on the westside, my parents went to school at Washington High school,with Billy Keller and rooted for Steve Downing and Big Mac. My grandfather was friends with George's grandmother and my grandfather ran a welding shop off Washington street where at times when George was little he played basketball, behind my grandfather's shop.
So growing up, the game was always on channel 4 with Don Hein and others calling games. I was taken to games at the Fairgrounds and I can remember peering between people, standing up ,watching exhibiton games against NBA teams. The battles with Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel , Louie Dampier and the evil Kentucky Colonels! I can recall not understanding how George McGinnis could leave MY team. or how could Roger get old or Mel Daniels be traded? I was very young, but I can still see Slick and his wife running the telethon to save the team. I felt embarrassed and ashamed, that our team could fall to such depths.
Little did i know, the worse was yet to come. Sam Nassi, Mike Bantom, Dudley Bradley, Don Buse, Billy Knight, Clemon Johnson replaced my old Pacers. My grandfather and I would go to games against the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavs and there would be maybe 2500 people there. man, that was some bad basketball with Mickey Johnson shooting bricks and Sonar Joe Hassett as our long range threat. But eventually Nassi was bought out and the Simons saved the franchise.
Donnie Walsh was brought in and hope was making a comeback but a winning team and some good drafts were needed. Steve Stipanovich, Vern Fleming and Terence Stansbury would not do. Coaching experiments with Jack Ramsey, George Irvine, Dick Versace, Bob Hill, just seemed to frustrate me more. I hated seeing Chuck Person, Michael Williams and Detlef traded but the rewards were worth it. The Larry Brown teams, the Knicks, the Byron Scott shot, Mark Jackson, DD, Sam Mitchell.
These were Reggie's teams and they were mine. Larry Bird came and I was so sure this was it we were going to be the first ABA team to win a NBA championship, but some really, really bad calls killed us. The Knicks, Michael Jordan and finally the Lakers. But thru all of this I was proud, not satisfied, but proud of how we performed. Larry left and Isiah came. I liked what Isiah was selling, tough defensive minded teams but at the end of the day it was are you proud of the team on the court? The effort? The way they conducted their business. It just seemed like Donnie Walsh, a guy i shared a cig with one time in the tunnel of MSA, had lost his mojo.
Larry returned, kinda of and I don't know if I was getting old or what but I just did not like this team. Winning is one thing but there just was something I didn't like about these guys. Reggie was there, but not really. The brawl brought it all down. I hated the Pistons, their fans and Stern. What a sham, even though I didn't like what my team had become Ill be damned if we didn't get screwed in that deal.
So it was over. I had watched this franchise come full circle. Now, here I am, watching the rebirth of something, I hope. I see the effort, I hear the talk and others have noticed outside of the midwest. It is very easy to let it slip thru your fingers and I wish these Pacers could see and understand how freaking hard it is to get to this point. Hell, its just the start of the season but the playoffs last year reminded me of a young Pacer team that went against an older, veteran-laden team led by the Legend himself and played their hearts out. The next year was a step back, but it was the beginning of a great, great run of playoff teams. I can only hope this is the beginning of the same for these players and coaches. If anything I guess this was to remind me of hard and long the climb can be, but the slide is so easy and fast. The time is now. I hope these players understand this, because this fan does. Happy New Year. Go Pacers!