NBA

Celtics’ Brad Stevens leaves coaching to replace retiring Danny Ainge as head of basketball operations

The Boston Celtics are wasting no time making moves in the front office following a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday evening. The Celtics announced Wednesday morning that head coach Brad Stevens is transitioning from his head-coaching position to becoming the franchise’s new head of basketball operations, replacing longtime president Danny Ainge, who is stepping down from his role. Stevens will lead the search for Boston’s new head coach.

“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 a press release. “I’m grateful to ownership, all of my Celtics colleagues, and the best fans in basketball for being part of the journey.”

Stevens has reportedly been “worn down” as a coach, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, especially since the Orlando bubble, which certainly took a mental and emotional toll on everyone involved in trying to pull that off as safely as possible. Ainge was reportedly “mulling his future” with the franchise for several months, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, and was discussing with ownership who would take over in his role if he were to leave. So it sounds as though the stars aligned for both Ainge and Stevens, who were both looking to move their careers in different directions. 

“I’m grateful to ownership and to Danny for trusting me with this opportunity,” Stevens said. “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.”

Stevens will finish his coaching tenure with the Celtics with a 354-282 record, including three trips to the Eastern Conference finals in the last four years, and making the postseason in all but one year in charge. He’s been heralded for his coaching tactics, his use of advanced analytics and ability to communicate those advanced metrics to players and implement them in games. Those tools will certainly come in handy in his new role in the front office, as he will now be tasked with assessing potential talent for the Celtics to sign in free agency, through trades and in the NBA Draft.

For Ainge, now that his time with Boston has come to an end, there’s a potential for him to land in a front office role with the Utah Jazz, per Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix. The Jazz are under new ownership as of last October, after the Miller Family, who owned the team since the 1980s, sold their majority stake in the franchise to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith. 

Ainge has been in the front office of the Celtics’ organization since 2003, and was instrumental in helping build the 2008 championship team by trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to pair with Paul Pierce. After that Boston core aged out, Ainge then traded Garnett and Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets for a haul of players and picks that would eventually turn into the current group of young stars centered around All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That same summer that Ainge stockpiled picks for Boston’s future was also the year he brought in Stevens as head coach after a storied collegiate coaching career. 

“Danny has made all the difference over the past 18 years – our record of winning percentage and playoff victories is near the top of the league during that time. He has always been a relentless competitor and a winner. Red Auerbach told us Danny is ‘lucky,’ and he was right, but a lot of the luck came from his intense drive and his incredible basketball insights,” Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said. “Turning to Brad is a natural next step, since we have built a partnership over the past eight years, and he is a special basketball mind. We want him to lead us into the next great era of Celtics basketball.”

Boston will enter the upcoming offseason with some looming questions on top of now trying to find a new coach, which could reportedly include looking at current Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, per Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.



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