In a wide-ranging interview with The Big Show's Glenn Ordway, Celtics legend Larry Bird said that he never would have coached against his old team in the original Boston Garden. "All my memories, I just wanted them to be as a player," Bird said. "Even here in Indiana, I told Donnie [Walsh] if the Garden was still up I would never go in there as an opposing coach and play the Celtics as an Indiana Pacer coach. I just couldn't do that. But they tore it down and I got in there in the other Garden and it didn't bother me as much."
Asked if he would have turned the team over to his then-assistant coach Rick Carlisle, Bird answered, "Carlisle did a lot of it anyway. No, I just wouldn't have taken the job. I just couldn't do that. I couldn't see myself walking in the Boston Garden as a visitor. I just couldn't do that."
As for his opinion of the modern game, Bird said that things haven't changed all that much.
"There's not a lot of difference. There's some athletes that run a little faster and jump a little higher," Bird said. "I never ran into a guy like LeBron James or a guy like Dwight Howard. There's some very, very good players but those two guys are as good as ever played the game. But the basket is still 10 feet high. The guys just a little bit higher, you'd just have to shoot a little higher. As far as trying to guard them I don't how the hell I'd have done that. I don't think it's changed that much. I would have loved to compete against this new group. Just like [Bob] Cousy and them would have loved to play against us, I would have liked to have taken my chances against these guys."
Bird also said he was "honored" by the comparisons between him and Mavericks' star Dirk Nowitzki.
"It's hard to compare. It's an honor for me to be brought up with Dirk. I like Dirk. I like him as a person. I'm happy for him," Bird said. "If people think he's better than me that's fine. I have no problem with that, I've never had a problem with that. He's another guy I would have liked to have played against. So you know, whatever. That's for other people to debate. I just like him as a human. I think he's great for our game."
As for his immediate future, Bird said that he almost stepped away from his job running basketball operations for the Pacers but decided to stay for at least one more year because of the uncertainty surrounding the league.
"We've got a lot of cap space and we've got a good core group of young players. You'd liked to win championships every year, but sometimes you're satisfied with the job you've done," Bird said. "Maybe a lot of other people ain't satisfied but I feel this franchise is in good shape."
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