David Benner retiring after 2021-22 season, Michael Preston hired to lead Pacers PR

Benner previously covered the team, then joined the franchise in 1994. The Pacers also hired Michael Preston as VP of basketball communications & media relations.

The 2021-22 season with be the 28th and final one for longtime Pacers director of public relations, David Benner.

He’s transitioning into a role as senior media advisor for the season and then will retire after 36 years around the team, including eight as a reporter covering the team for the Indianapolis Star from 1983-1991.

“As a geeky, no-talent high school kid who was a student manager for the basketball team, everyone told me I would never make it to the NBA. Well, after 27 (and hopefully 28 years), take that,” Benner said. “There are so many people to thank, starting with the Simon family, who made this a great organization to work for; Dale Ratterman and Donnie Walsh, who gave a sportswriter a chance at this dream job; and my wife, my brothers and sister for their guidance over the years. Finally, my co-workers through the years – Tim, MaryKay, Jeff, Krissy and Wes, who carried me every step.”

The Pacers have hired Michael Preston for a newly-created position, vice president of basketball communications & media relations. Starting on Sept. 22, he’ll work alongside Krissy Myers and Wes Kaminski.

Preston spent 11 seasons with the 76ers as the director of public relations from 2006-2017, working with familiar names like Thad Young, Justin Holiday, T.J. McConnell and assistant coach Lloyd Pierce — and overseeing PR during “The Process.” He also previously worked in the XFL, and for the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Heat. Most recently, he worked for national retail chain Spirit Halloween.

The two areas within the franchise that have been consistent, untouched for decades are the training staff and public relations. Until now.

Benner is a lifelong Hoosier, a graduate of Center Grove High School and Indiana University. While at Center Grove, he became a student manager of the boys basketball team during his sophomore year — and has worked in sports ever since.

It was former Pacers PR man Dale Ratterman who hired Benner prior to the 1994-95 season to replace him. The first thing Benner had to do was upgrade his wardrobe; he wears a suit to every game.

"On behalf of our entire organization, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to David Benner for his meaningful contributions and dedicated service to both the Indiana Pacers and the NBA for nearly three decades," said team president Kevin Pritchard, who joined the franchise in 2011.

"He always and unfailingly placed the best interest of our organization above all else and did so with a style that was all his own. It goes without saying that David is an exemplary media relations professional, a trusted confidante, and, most importantly, someone we are proud to call a friend for life."

Benner, 65, led the media relations department — the contact us reporters worked with on a daily basis to cover the franchise. He’s best known to fans as the one to deliver a Pepsi and trash talk to Hall of Famer Reggie Miller prior to each game.

Benner previously appeared on my podcast to talk about his life in sports, public relations in the NBA and being around the franchise for over 30 years.

You can read more about his impact from the team’s press release below.

Benner’s impact on the organization and media relations department since his arrival prior to the start of the 1994-95 season has been immeasurable. Under his direction, the Pacers became the first two-time winner of the Brian McIntyre Media Relations Award (2010-11, 2012-13), issued annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA) to the NBA media relations staff that exemplifies the standards of professionalism and excellence worthy of acclaim.

Benner and his staff also played key roles in the organization being recognized by the PBWA with the Rudy Tomjanovich Award (2013-14), which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with the media and fans, as well as his excellence on the court, and the Magic Johnson Award (2003-04), which honors the player who best combines excellence on the basketball court with cooperation and dignity in dealing with the media and the public. 

Benner has been a key fixture with during numerous organizational public and media relations successes, including six Eastern Conference Finals and one NBA Finals appearance, as well as multiple individual player awards that include a Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year, while working closely with some of the league’s most popular and recognizable players.