Donnie Walsh Rumors
Going into the draft, the Pacers needed a point guard, said Walsh, who was then the team’s general manager. People in Indiana wanted him to take hometown favorite Steve Alford, who had just won an NCAA title at IU. Walsh said he never entertained that thought. He had his mind set on Kevin Johnson, who in high school led the state of California in scoring (32.5 points) and was named the Northern California Player of the Year. “This kid was good,” Walsh said from his Indianapolis home this month. “So if I could have gotten him, I probably would have taken him. But I realized pretty quickly that we weren’t going to get him.”
Walsh never counted on getting Johnson in 1987. His research told him Johnson would be gone long before the 11th pick. Walsh started plotting. He went to then-Pacers coach Jack Ramsay. “And I had a tape of Reggie and I said, ‘Jack, I want you to look at this because I don’t know if we’re going to get the kid we were looking for,'” Walsh said. “He watched it that night and he came back in and said, ‘Yeah, I’d take him.’ And I said, ‘So would I,’ and so that’s what we did.”
“As a geeky, no-talent high school kid who was a student manager for the basketball team, everyone told me I would never make it to the NBA. Well, after 27 (and hopefully 28 years), take that,” Benner said. “There are so many people to thank, starting with the Simon family, who made this a great organization to work for; Dale Ratterman and Donnie Walsh, who gave a sportswriter a chance at this dream job; and my wife, my brothers and sister for their guidance over the years. Finally, my co-workers through the years – Tim, MaryKay, Jeff, Krissy and Wes, who carried me every step.”
Scott Agness: I’ve been talking to Pacers people all day about Rick Carlisle. Larry Bird, who hired him on his staff, politely declined an interview. Longtime architect Donnie Walsh to @FieldhouseFiles: “I think it’s a very good hire. And I’m happy to see Rick come back.” Story to come.
On Wednesday, Dec. 30, Donnie Walsh logged onto a Zoom call to share news with his colleagues at Pacers Sports & Entertainment for the final time. He had great memories with them, an organization for which he once ran the basketball and business operations. But it was time. So around noon ET on Dec. 30 — as first reported on Fieldhouse Files — Walsh informed team employees that he was stepping down as a consultant, a role he held since 2013, and was retiring. This was it.
“I don’t know if it’s a good time or not,” Walsh said during our phone interview, his first extensive interview since retiring, “but I had been thinking about doing it since I got back actually from New York (in 2012). I fought against it because my whole life has been in basketball, but the bottom line was, this year in particular, I just thought I’m getting too old for this. I don’t have the same energy, I don’t have the same body, I guess, that I used to have.
“And I think when you’re in a game like the NBA, it really requires a lot of energy, the ability to travel a lot and that kind of thing, and to get up early and go to work every day, and then to stay long for games. I just didn’t have what it took to do that anymore. So I had to admit it. “So I called up (owner) Herb Simon and Kevin (Pritchard), and told them I just can’t come back. That’s all. And also, because of my career — I’ve had 60 years in basketball — and as a result, I’ve always been in and out with my family. I just thought I’d like to spend the complete time with different members of my family and have the ability to do that. So that was the real reason I did it.”