News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 10, 2013

Larry Bird: In his words

David Hughes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Bird behind the scenes — Before the public statue dedication took place Saturday, Bird agreed to field questions from newspaper and television reporters inside Hulman Center.

Among some of his comments:

• On Friday’s tribute dinner in Hulman Center: “It was great. It was great to see some old friends. Obviously, my old [ISU] teammates. I haven’t seen them for a while, but it’s always good to get back and be around them and see their families and see how much everyone’s grown.”

• On how many Bird family members came to Terre Haute this weekend: “I got a lot of family here … probably 15-20 [people].”

• On whether he checked on the Indiana Pacers’ home game against the Toronto Raptors (won by the Pacers) while he attended the dinner program here Friday night: “Sure I did. That’s my job.”

• On getting to see the current ISU men’s team play Saturday: “It’s going to be interesting because I know they’ve got a good team. Last year, I got to see about five or six games. We always follow the Sycamores and wish them the best. I don’t get over here enough [or] as much as I should. But hopefully if the [Pacers] team is out of town, I can get over here more often.”

• On his favorite ISU basketball moment from his playing days: “I would say it’s my senior year [1978-79]. Not really a game, just how it all unfolded. … Going into the season, we really didn’t know what was going to happen [with several changes occurring on the roster and coaching staff]. And it all came together. Everyone knew their roles. … In the New Mexico State game [at Las Cruces, N.M.], me and Carl [Nicks] had fouled out [along with teammate Alex Gilbert]. Some other guys got in late and helped win the game in overtime for us. To win 33 games in a row, that’s a lot of games no matter who you play.”

• On his first look at the statue Saturday: “I didn’t get to see it in Indianapolis [when it was originally unveiled Oct. 29 at a Pacers home game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse]. … This is not only for me, but it’s for my [ISU] teammates and my fans. It’s a very special day. There’s no question about that. When I came to Indiana State, I didn’t dream about anything like this. I never thought about it. All I was doing was trying to play basketball and get an education. Somewhere along the way, we did pretty good.”

• On when/if he ever got over the NCAA championship loss to Michigan State in March 1979: “You never get over that. It’s impossible to get over when you get your heart broken. The pain eases, but it never goes away.”

• On the late ISU coach Bob King being inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame: “He was absolutely fantastic for me here. I was a scorer [coming out of Springs Valley High School] and all of his emphasis was on the defensive end. He taught me a lot and he was a great man to play for. … We all admired our coach King — all of us.”

• On several of his former NBA teammates showing up in Terre Haute this weekend: “I was honored to have a lot of old teammates here [Friday] night [for the tribute dinner]. We had a lot of fun together.”

• On his feelings toward Terre Haute: “I love Terre Haute. Terre Haute was good to me. I can honestly say I had a great time here. I have a lot of friends in Terre Haute. I see them a lot at the Pacers games. … It’s really embarrassing for me that I haven’t been back as much as I should be.”

• On whether Magic Johnson knows that the Bird statue in Terre Haute is taller than the Johnson statue in Michigan: “That’s probably why he didn’t show up.”