Sources: Donnie Walsh leaving post with Pacers
Walsh, the longtime architect of the team, first joined the franchise in 1984.
Longtime NBA executive Donnie Walsh has stepped down from his role with the Pacers, league sources told Fieldhouse Files.
Walsh, 79, has served as a consultant for basketball operations since 2013. Team employees were informed of the news Wednesday during a company Zoom call.
You can’t tell the story of the Pacers without Walsh, who has a close relationship with team owner Herb Simon.
“Over my thirty-year relationship with Donnie, I have been amazed to watch him help lead this organization to what it has become,” Simon said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. He purchased the team, along with his late brother Mel, in 1983.
“He was certainly the right leader at the right time, and the invaluable wisdom and counsel he has provided over the decades extend well beyond the lines of the basketball court. For that, I owe him an incredible debt of gratitude. While he may be stepping away, Donnie will always be part of the Pacers family and I am personally excited for him as he transitions to his next chapter.”
One year in, Walsh joined the Pacers in 1984 and became general manager two years later. When Larry Bird took a one-year sabbatical in 2012, Walsh filled in. Upon Bird’s return on June 27, 2013, he agreed to remain on staff in a consultant role.
It was Walsh who selected Reggie Miller over hometown favorite Steve Alford 11th overall in the 1989 NBA Draft.
“Thank you Donnie Walsh and Pacers, you took a risk/gamble on me, when others looked the other way,” Miller tweeted. “I have always appreciated our friendship and your advice over the years. May the next chapter of your amazing book be just as rewarding.”
When I asked center Myles Turner, the Pacers’ 2015 first-round pick and still the longest-tenured player, about the news on Wednesday, his first response was “Oh wow. Yeah, that’s news to me. Wow, man.
“The first time I ever talked to him was at my draft workout when I came here and I think that he was really high on me, high on my potential. We had great discussions (about) that, he wished me the best of luck and then I happened to end up here in Indy.”
During normal times, Walsh came to work each day and always watched practice. Even on holidays. At home games, he liked to sit courtside a few hours before tip-off to watch players go through their warmups and to say hello to old friends from across the league. And when the organization opened its $50 million practice facility, the St. Vincent Center, in 2017, one of the two courts was named after him.
“The fact that my first three years here, he was at every single practice, always talking, always positive, always evaluating,” Turner continued. "I think just being able to pick his brain about certain things was fun for me as a young player and really beneficial. Donnie has been nothing but great to me and great to this organization.
“The success that he’s had over the years here has been incredible. He’s been able to bring a small-market team into contention every year and a lot of regular-season success. That’s something that just doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger so it’s something he had to orchestrate, something he had to put together. I have nothing but the fondest memories with Donnie and I wish him the best of luck with his future endeavors.”
Since 1989, the Pacers have reached the postseason 25 times over those 31 seasons.
Over the last several months, there have been many personnel changes. In addition to Walsh, senior VP Peter Dinwiddie and assistant coach Dan Burke left the franchise after multiple decades with the team. And a new coaching staff was brought in.
The Pacers’ front office now consists of team president Kevin Pritchard, GM Chad Buchanan, assistant GM Kelly Krauskopf, VP of player personnel Ryan Carr and VP of basketball operations Ted Wu. Bird remains on in an advisor role.
Walsh is a candidate for the Class of 2021 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame under the contributor category.