Donnie Walsh vividly remembers his first meeting with Larry Bird. (Boston Herald)
“I’ll never forget that meeting,” Walsh said. “We sat down and talked and he spent 45 minutes telling me what he was going to do from the first day of training camp to the last day of the season.
“And when I look back on it, that’s exactly what he did. Everything. Everything.”
What did that entail?
“He went over everything from how he was going to run practices to what each player needed to do to get better,” Walsh said. “He was totally prepared.
“He started by saying he had to hire two really good assistants because he’s never done this before. And then he said exactly what he was going to do on the first day of practice, and he went from there.”
Walsh said there wasn’t a single facet left unplanned.
“Larry established things and stayed with them,” he said. “He had practice the same time every time. Our team left for the plane the same time every time. . . . It created a routine, and the players, without even knowing it, started playing like that. He made them understand what they had to do and he made them do it by habit – and that carried over onto the floor in games. They knew what to do.
“He gave them a lot of freedom, but he gave them structure, too. I thought he was great.”
How great, though? Walsh, a man who has been around the NBA since 1979, thinks Bird is one of the best coaches he’s ever seen.
Meanwhile, he looks back on a coach he ranks with the best in the game – even with his friend, Larry Brown.
“Larry Brown wants to teach. . . . But when you have a great team,” Walsh said, “Larry Bird will take them as far as they can go. He’s the best manager of a team I’ve ever seen.”
Is there anything Bird couldn’t do?