BASKETBALL OPERATIONS CONSULTANT
After working three years as the President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks, Donnie Walsh returned to his home in Indianapolis
and “did nothing.” The avowed workaholic/basketball junkie added, “I found out I was okay with doing nothing.”
Then in June of 2012, Pacers Owner Herb Simon called. Larry Bird, the President of Basketball Operations for the Pacers, was stepping down and
would Donnie be interested in coming back. So the man who has been a valuable piece of this franchise since 1984 returned.
After spending the 2012-13 season as the President of Basketball Operations, Walsh gave that seat back to Bird and now works with President of
Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard and General Manager Chad Buchanan as a consultant on a daily basis.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with Kevin and now to have another like basketball mind in Chad is a great addition,” said Walsh. “For me to remain a
part of this, with people who I love to work with and respect greatly, is very special. I’m very proud to be part of this great franchise.”
During his initial 24-year run as, first, an assistant coach, then General Manager, then President, and, finally, President/CEO, the Pacers made
the NBA Playoffs 17 times, reaching the NBA Finals in 2000 and making it to the Eastern Conference Finals six times with four Central Division
When Walsh arrived in Indianapolis in 1984, he didn’t plan on staying long. Hired as an assistant coach by head coach and good friend George Irvine, Walsh knew coaching jobs came
with short-term realization and real estate agents on speed dial. He didn’t plan to stay long since his goal was to be a general manager in the NBA.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be with the Pacers,” said Walsh.
In 1986, he became the Pacers’ General Manager and was in charge of a team coming off a 26-56 season and had reached the playoffs only once in 10 NBA seasons. Walsh admitted,
“It was hard to change your team back then, you had to do it through the draft, not through free agency. My first week, when I looked at our team and realized what was ahead, I thought
I was an interim guy.”
Everyone now knows how that turned out.
“My personal goal for the Pacers’ franchise was to always be included in the great tradition of Indiana basketball with both high school and college,” Walsh said. “The team’s success
when I was here before is a point of excellence that I think puts us in that category of Indiana basketball and reflects well on the basketball in this state. But the ultimate goal is still to
win a championship.”
“I’ll tell you, I don’t want to think of a team that doesn’t have a person of Donnie Walsh’s quality as part of it,” Pacers co-owner Herb Simon has said. “He’s my kind of guy. He’s straight
forward, honest, hard-working, very talented and treats everyone fairly. I don’t know what else you could ask for in a person.”
Walsh has overseen many key moves in the franchise’s history: the drafting of Hall of Fame player Reggie Miller; the hiring of successful coaches Larry Brown, Larry Bird and Rick
Carlisle; hiring Bird nine years ago to eventually replace him in the front office; the landing of the WNBA franchise, the Indiana Fever, in 1999; and, maybe most importantly, the building
of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“I think the Fieldhouse culminated all of our dreams for the Pacers, but I think it also encompasses everything that is Indiana basketball to me,” said Walsh. “That was our goal when we
started this and I’m talking about when we started back in 1986 to build a team. We wanted the team to be a part of the tradition of Indiana basketball, which it really hadn’t been up until
that point in the NBA. It has been a long process over many years, but I think it culminated with the Fieldhouse because it kind of embodies it.
“Looking back at it, I’m glad we were able to get the team to the point it was. There’s great satisfaction in doing that. As for the Fieldhouse, I get the feeling of accomplishment in the
sense that after being here for so many years, if I have a part in this building it’s that it is something permanent I can look back on and think, ‘Well, I had something to do with that’.”
The 77-year-old (3/1/41) Walsh left the Pacers in 2008 to go back to his boyhood home, New York, to run the Knicks’ basketball operation. Many league experts credit Walsh with making
them relevant again as he masterfully created cap room to sign key free agents and made New York a playoff team. He mutually parted with the Knicks in 2011.
Walsh, who in 1988 was named president of the Pacers Basketball Corporation (now Pacers Sports & Entertainment which runs the Pacers, the Fever, Pacers Foundation, Inc. and also
directs the management of Bankers Life Fieldhouse), has spent his life in and around basketball.
An outstanding high school player in New York City, Walsh played at North Carolina under Frank McGuire and Dean Smith. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political
science, Walsh attended the North Carolina Law School, where he was associate editor of the Law Review, and helped coach the Tar Heels’ freshman team for two seasons.
After graduating from law school and turning down offers from then former Vice President Richard Nixon’s law firm in New York City and the U.S. Justice Department’s Honors programs,
he took a graduate coaching position under Smith at North Carolina and then became an associate head coach under McGuire at South Carolina. In 1977, Walsh was about to enter
private law practice in South Carolina, but Brown, the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, asked Walsh to join him as an assistant. Walsh stayed with the Nuggets as an assistant coach
and a head coach before entering private business in 1982.
But in 1984, Walsh was back in basketball as a Pacers’ assistant coach. Two years later, he became GM. He has since been a member of the U.S. Olympic Games Committee for men’s
basketball for Dream Teams I and II.
Walsh’s knowledge, professionalism, accessibility and courtesy are highly-recognized throughout the NBA by players, coaches, front office personnel and the media. He is also a
respected member of the Indianapolis community, serving on the boards of many charities. In June, 2004, he was honored with the Indiana Pathfinder Award for his contributions to
causes involving youth.
He and his wife, Judy, both natives of New York, have five children and live in Indianapolis. They also are avid dog lovers.
WE GROW BASKETBALL HERE INDIANA PACERS 2018-1 9 YEARBOOK