US Sports Veteran
On June 2, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge is retiring. Brad Stevens is leaving the hardwood to assume the front office role, leaving Boston in need of a new head coach. The announcements come less than 24 hours after the Brooklyn Nets eliminated Boston from the 2021 NBA Playoffs in a 4-1 gentleman’s sweep.
These decisions didn’t come about overnight. Wojnarowski claimed that Ainge had been thinking about stepping down from his role for months.
“Helping guide this organization has been the thrill of a lifetime, and having worked side-by-side with him since he’s been here, I know we couldn’t be in better hands than with Brad guiding the team going forward,” Ainge said in an official press release. “I’m grateful to ownership, all of my Celtics colleagues, and the best fans in basketball for being part of the journey.”
Ainge won two titles as a player with the Celtics during the 1980s. He spent seven and a half of his 14 playing seasons with Boston. The former All-Star was the head coach in Phoenix for just over three seasons before returning to Boston as the President of Basketball Operations in 2003.
During his nearly two decades of service, Ainge brought in and shipped out multiple All-Stars. His most memorable transactions include trading for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett ahead of the 2007 season. The two stars formed a Hall of Fame trio with Paul Pierce and won Boston its record-setting 17th NBA championship in the 2008 Finals.
Boston’s big three reached the finals in 2010 but fell to Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers. A few years later, Ainge traded Garnett and Pierce to Brooklyn for a treasure trove of picks that netted the Celtics Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Boston made the playoffs 15 times during Ainge’s reign, and the franchise won 806 of its 1,439 regular season games.
Stevens oversaw the last 354 of those wins. He became the team’s head coach in 2013 after leading Butler to five NCAA Tournament appearances in six years. While Stevens was one of the league’s best coaches since taking the sideline at only 37 years old, the former college standout never made it past the conference finals.
Ahead of his 45th birthday, Stevens is walking away from coaching for the foreseeable future.
“I’m grateful to ownership and to Danny for trusting me with this opportunity,” Stevens said in the team’s press release. “I’m excited to tackle this new role, starting with a wide ranging and comprehensive search for our next head coach. I love the Celtics, and know the great honor and responsibility that comes with this job. I will give it everything I have to help us be in position to consistently compete for championships.”
According to Wojnarowski’s sources, Stevens hasn’t recovered the abundant energy that made him successful at Butler since the bubble concluded last season. Moving to the front office gives the worn down coach a chance to try his hand at a new opportunity, one that doesn’t involve chasing down referees and drawing up game plans every night.
While Ainge will continue working with the Celtics throughout their offseason transition, Stevens is in charge of hiring the organization’s new head coach.
Boston’s realigned front office faces an uphill battle this summer. The team is coming off its worst season since 2013 and only has one first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The Celtics also lack crucial cap space, which could complicate extending Marcus Smart and lead to 2020 trade acquisition Evan Fournier departing in free agency.
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