When Larry Bird came into the NBA with the Boston Celtics in 1979, Bill Fitch took him under his wing and helped to mold him into one of the league's greatest players.
"He was a special coach," Bird said. "He was my first coach in the NBA and I've always admired him. Bill Fitch was by far the best I've seen."
Bird fced Fitch for the first time as a coach Sunday in the Indiana Pacers-Clippers game at the Sports Arena.
"It was like when I played and he was coaching the other team," said Bird, who has rebuilt the Pacers as a first-year coach. "I admire and respect him more than any other coach I've ever had, but I didn't want him to beat me."
Clipper guard Brent Barry, who missed his fifth consecutive game because of a sore left heel, wants to use the All-Star break to recover, saying, "I think after the break I'll be close to 100%."