Sources: Bird gives Simon go-ahead to plan for his departure

Pacers president Larry Bird wants owner Herb Simon to plan for his departure after the season and has told several friends in the NBA that he's decided to leave, two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Thursday.

Bird, 55, had an agreement with Simon to remain team president through the end of the season and decide his future then. The Hall of Famer has been clear in conversations with friends that Simon does not need to wait any longer before formally considering candidates to replace him, one of the sources said.

Bird is said to be "100 percent" certain he's leaving after the most successful season of the Pacers' post-Palace brawl rebuilding, one of the sources said, but has been extremely guarded publicly about his intentions. The Pacers (42-24) have been one of the surprise teams of the lockout-shortened season, securing the No. 3 seed in the East and hosting the Magic in the first round beginning Saturday.

The New York Post reported last month that Bird had decided not to return, but Bird had since stated publicly that he hadn't made up his mind and hadn't yet informed colleagues of his decision at that point.

Which approach Simon takes in planning for a post-Bird front office will be interesting. The owner has been pleased with the progress under Bird and GM David Morway, and former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard has been a positive addition to the front office. Morway also has a contract that expires after the season, and Pritchard has an open-ended agreement.

Former Pacers president Donnie Walsh, who has received permission from the Knicks to speak with other teams about front-office positions, would be a natural fit to lead the front office if Simon opts to stay the course with the existing structure beneath Bird. Walsh, 71, is said to want to explore a possible return to the Pacers before entertaining other GM openings.

Bird has been the Pacers' president since 2003, when he shared the decision-making responsibilities with Walsh until Walsh left to become Knicks president in 2008. Walsh had been in the Pacers' front office since 1986, leading Indiana to 16 playoff appearances in 17 years.

 
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