Larry Bird says he did not tell the Boston Celtics and team doctors that he felt irregular heartbeats during offseason workouts late in his NBA career.
He also has indicated he might step down as Indiana Pacers coach at the end of next season.
In today's edition of The Boston Globe, Bird said he had discussed quitting with Pacers president Donnie Walsh.
"He didn't say it flat out. I never expected him to coach beyond the three years, but it's not like he has come in here and told us that this is it," Walsh told the newspaper. "The idea was that we'd talk at the end of this season and see what he wanted to do."
Bird, who could not be reached for comment today, signed a three-year contract in 1997 to coach the Pacers with the expectation that he'd move into the front office after that. Walsh said the two have discussed such a move for next season and that Bird has seemed interested in doing it.
"But with Larry, you never know," Walsh said.
Bird's heart ailment was disclosed in an excerpt in this week's Sports Illustrated from his upcoming book, "Bird Watching: On Playing and Coaching the Game I Love."
"I always knew there was something wrong with my heart," Bird wrote.
The heart "episodes," as he called them, apparently didn't occur during the regular season.
He said he would feel sudden exhaustion and his heart would start "jumping around."
After retiring in 1992 and joining the Celtics' front office, Bird felt the "episodes" more often. He finally told team physician Arnie Scheller and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
Bird was put on medication and told to exercise, eat healthy and drink alcohol only in moderation. But his condition worsened in the spring of 1997, right before he became the Pacers' coach.
"I got a little scared because it didn't seem like it was going away," Bird wrote.
The disease is not life threatening and not as serious as ventricular fibrillation, which doctors believed caused the death of former Celtics teammate Reggie Lewis. But on March 17, 1998, while coaching Indiana in a tight game against the Chicago Bulls, Bird almost passed out.
"I was standing on the sideline and hoping for a television timeout because I felt like I was gonna to pass out," Bird wrote. "Finally, the ref whistled time. Whenever we have a timeout, they always put a chair on the court for me so I can sit down and talk to the guys. This time I fell into that chair because I was going out."
At one point earlier, Pacers cardiologist King Yee used defibrillator paddles to jolt Bird's heart back to a normal rhythm. Yee old Bird to be more serious about his condition and medication.
"I guess Dr. Yee was trying to scare me," Bird wrote. "I'm not going to be stupid about this heart condition, but I'm not going to live my whole life in fear of this thing, either. If it goes, it goes."
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