Larry Bird, the legendary Boston Celtics player, was a star-player and one of the most influential figures in NBA history. He is also known for his competitive nature and his desire for success. The Celtics were not always successful during Bird’s tenure with them; he wanted to hire a college coach to take over the team when he retired but never got his wish.
Larry Bird wanted 1 legendary college coach to take over the Boston Celtics but never got his wish. The coach was John Wooden who turned down the offer because he thought it wasn’t worth it.
Rick Pitino was on Larry Bird’s list of coaching candidates when he took over for M.L. Carr as head coach of the Boston Celtics. After Carr and the Celtics went 15-67 in the 1996-97 season, Bird was working as a special assistant in the team’s front office and putting together a list of coaches to manage the show.
Bird had Pitino on his short list, but he wasn’t his first pick.
In 1997, Larry Bird departed the Boston Celtics to become the coach of the Indiana Pacers.
On February 2, 2019, in Miami, Florida, Indiana Pacers adviser Larry Bird observes warmups before the game between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers at American Airlines Arena. | Getty Images/Mark Brown
Bird stayed on as a special assistant to club owner Paul Gaston after winning three consecutive MVP awards and leading the Celtics to three titles during his 13-year career. While Gaston allegedly said that Bird could have joined the Celtics in whatever role he desired, the No. 33 didn’t agree.
“(The owners) had already decided what they wanted, and it wasn’t me,” Bird told Sports Illustrated in 1997.
Bird called the Pacers to request permission to meet with head coach Larry Brown about the Celtics’ opening, and the Pacers responded by asking about Bird’s availability. Bird once said that he would never coach in the NBA. The Pacers were able to persuade him to alter his mind. Bird was employed in 1997.
Donnie Walsh, the president of the Indiana Pacers, understood Bird was serious about his new job.
After Bird’s hiring, Walsh remarked, “Larry still despises all the limelight.” “The fact that he’s re-entering the spotlight demonstrates how serious he is about coaching.”
With the Boston Celtics, Larry Bird wanted a coach other than Pitino or Brown.
Bird was requested to compile a list of prospective coaching candidates to succeed Carr before accepting the Pacers’ coaching position. Pitino and Brown were on his list, but they weren’t Bird’s top choices. Roy Williams, who was then with Kansas, was the coach Bird wanted in Boston.
In 1997, Bird stated, “I wanted Williams so hard.” “He was the ideal gentleman. I imagined him guiding the Celtics to their next title. But I knew he was unlikely to accept the position for another four to five years.”
Pitino was chosen instead by the Celtics. The signing of Pitino marked the end of Boston’s Bird era. Pitino would only step down as a coach if he had complete control over the Celtics’ basketball choices. That request was granted, leaving Bird without a job.
Pitino wanted Bird on board, but Bird was aware that his time had come to an end.
Bird said, “I wasn’t about to allow someone else make the choices and then blame me for them.” “That was the plan all along. Paul Gaston may have wanted me there, but he didn’t want me to be in charge.”
Bird was a successful coach in Indiana, whereas Pitino failed miserably in Boston.
Bird led the Pacers to a 58-win season and a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season as head coach. Coach of the Year honors were bestowed to him by the NBA. He was the head coach at Indiana for three seasons, and he had three consecutive winning seasons.
Pitino, on the other hand, never had a winning season in his four years in Boston. Pitino guided the Celtics to a 36-46 record in his first season with the club, his finest year with the franchise. Pitino has a record of 102-146 in four years.
After three years as Indiana’s head coach, Bird resigned. He became the team’s president of basketball operations in 2003. For the 2011-12 season, he was awarded NBA Executive of the Year.
Williams stayed with the Kansas Jayhawks until 2003. He was a member of the Jayhawks for 15 years. He took over the program at the University of North Carolina in the 2003-04 season. Williams had a 903-264 record throughout his collegiate career.
Basketball Reference and Sports Reference provided all stats.
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