Larry Bird Respects Kevin McHale Too Much to Hire Him As Pacers Coach

By Brian Robb, CBS Boston

BOSTON – Once Pacers team president Larry Bird made the controversial decision to not renew the contract of his head coach Frank Vogel this week, it did not take long for speculation about the position to turn to one of Bird’s former teammates: Kevin McHale.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey fired McHale one month into the 2015-16 regular season when Houston stumbled out of the gate. The Celtics legend got the last laugh, though, after seeing the Rockets struggle for the majority of the regular season without him, leading to an ugly first round exit against the Warriors.

With Bird in search of improved offense for his Pacers over the defensive-minded Vogel, looking to one of his Hall-of-Fame former floormates in Boston appeared to be a potential fit. However, Bird threw cold water on that possibility mere minutes into his press conference on Thursday in what appeared to be a show of respect to his ex-teammate.

“I would not do that to Kevin, have him work for me. That’s just not fair,” Bird told reporters in Indiana. “I respect the man too much and we’ve been through too many battles together to bring him in here and be my coach.

“I would love for him to be my coach, but it ain’t gonna happen.”

While the exchange was a bit awkward on the surface, it should not come as a complete surprise to Boston fans that a reunion was not in the cards. To start, Bird and McHale were never considered the closest teammates as Celtics, despite their success. Larry Legend is also a tough critic of his coaches, as shown by his dismissal of Vogel despite four playoff trips in the past five seasons.

Bird’s looking for a person who can implement his small-ball offense vision with Paul George handling the bulk of minutes at the power forward spot. The 6-foot-10 McHale has not exactly embraced that kind of offensive philosophy during his coaching stints in Houston and Minnesota, making that kind of adaptation a potentially tough sell at this point in his coaching career.

With Indiana out of the picture, McHale may be out of luck when it comes to landing a job opening for next season. He’s pulled out of the Sacramento job search and does not appear to be a candidate for the Knicks opening under Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.

Meanwhile, Bird is looking at a variety of experienced candidates for the position, including Brian Shaw, Mike Woodson, Mark Jackson and Jeff Hornacek, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Bird will have plenty of the line with his next choice after replacing the successful and popular Vogel despite him being one game away from upsetting the second-seeded Raptors in the East.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.

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