INDIANAPOLIS — Donnie Walsh had many roles with the Indiana Pacers over the last 36-years. Fans will best remember him as the general manager who made the then controversial decision to draft Reggie Miller out of UCLA over IU star Steve Alford in 1987.
It was a move that worked out for the Pacers, as Miller became the team's greatest player over an 18-year career, while the team enjoyed success on the court, reaching the 2000 NBA Finals and the Eastern Conference Finals six times.
Now, a few months short of his 80th birthday, Walsh is stepping down as a front-office consultant to the team.
Donnie Walsh grew up in New York City and played college basketball at the University of North Carolina where he also earned a law degree. But basketball was to be his true calling.
Walsh was a college assistant coach for a number of years, including a long stint at the University of South Carolina. He spent one-and-a-half seasons as head coach of the NBA Denver Nuggets, then joined the Pacers in 1984.
In 2008, Walsh left Indiana for the Knicks, where he spent three-years as president of basketball operations. He returned to the Pacers in 2012.
In all, Walsh spent 22-years as the team's general manager or president. In recent years, he's been an consultant to the team, often sitting with Larry Bird a few rows up from the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Team owner and chairman Herb Simon issued this statement on Walsh Wednesday:
"Over my thirty-year relationship with Donnie, I have been amazed to watch him help lead this organization to what it has become. He was certainly the right leader at the right time, and the invaluable wisdom and counsel he has provided over the decades extend well beyond the lines of the basketball court. For that, I owe him an incredible debt of gratitude.
While he may be stepping away, Donnie will always be part of the Pacers family and I am personally excited for him as he transitions to his next chapter."