Goodbye, Larry

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INDIANAPOLIS: Larry Bird says he is going back home. Bird announced Thursday that after 13 seasons and three championships a player and five years as an adviser to the team, he would leave his No. 33 in Boston to become the head coach of the Indiana Pacers. But at a reported $4.5 million a year, along with part ownership and a promise to succeed president Donnie Walsh, the 40 year-old Bird will be much more than the Pacers' coach. Like Pitino and the Celtics and Pat Riley and the Heat, the very identity of the Pacers is now indistinguishable from that of Larry Bird. Which is exactly how the Pacers like it. The self-described "hick from French Lick" is an institution in Indiana, nearly to the degree he has been in Boston. Yet it is perhaps fitting that the Celtics should lose such an integral part of their tradition and identity at just this moment. They are Rick Pitino's Celtics now, the man Bird recruited in his final act in green. And although Pitino, a Boston native, wanted Bird to remain, it seems Larry Legend just could not resist the opportunity to have a team of his own.