Danny Ainge is stepping down as the Boston Celtics’ president of basketball operations, and Brad Stevens will move from head coach into the front office and lead the search for a new coach.
The team held a press conference on Wednesday to announce the transition.
Principal owner Wyc Grousbeck and co-owner Steve Pagliuca spoke at the conference alongside Ainge and Stevens. Grousbeck and Pagliuca talked about what Ainge means to the organization.
“One of the truly finest people I’ve ever met in my life,” said Grousbeck. “Thanking Danny and his family for working with us.” Pagliuca also chimed in with a small story on his time working with Ainge: “It’s been just a wonderful 18 years… I met Danny in the late 80s and have always respected and honored him… working side by side with him and Brad has been one of the best experiences of my life… the reinvigoration of the franchise, the championship in 2008… we’re just honored with his integrity… we’re really going to miss it… we should really appreciate all he’s done.”
Grousbeck commented on Stevens’ future with the team, as well. Brad “wants to bring Celtics pride to the levels that we’re accustomed to,” he said. “We’re going to win banner 18 or die trying… [we] believe Brad is the person to lead us on the basketball side as we go towards that lofty goal.”
The Celtics brought Ainge on board as the GM in 2003 and he manned that post ever since. He helped bring a championship to Boston in 2008 and orchestrated many impactful moves during his time in Boston. Ainge reflected on his time in Boston during the press conference.
“This is a bittersweet day,” he began. “You start back 18 years ago… one thing that they won me over on was the quality of people that I believed I was going to work for… I’m really proud of is how they’ve [Wyc, Pagliuca, ownership, etc.] lived up to everything I thought they’d do.”
When asked about why he decided to step down, Ainge pointed to health issues. He suffered a heart attack just two years ago and said that it made him question whether or not he should be working anymore.
“I think that when I had a heart attack two years ago I started thinking about what I was doing with my life,” he stated.
The now-former GM ensured that it was his decision alone and that there was no pressure on him from ownership to retire. “It was my decision… it started when I had health issues two years ago… surrounded by your six children in the hospital.”
Grousbeck backed up Ainge’s claim, stating that it was “completely his decision with no support from ownership.”
Ainge hired Stevens ahead of the 2013-14 season. Stevens coached the Celtics from then up until this past year, only missing the playoffs once. He helped the team reach three of the last four Eastern Conference Finals before this season and held a 318-246 record during his time as head coach. Stevens discussed how the idea of this transition came about, as well as his mindset moving into the front office role.
“Well like I said earlier today, today’s not about me,” said Stevens. “The thought of going into this position was never even a thought because Danny was here and he was the best at it and he’s the best to work for… when he decided to retire… we talked a little bit about it whenever that was… then it just kind of moved down the road.”
He continued on to state that “my number one thing is for the good of the Celtics, I love the Celtics, I want to do what’s next for the Celtics.” “This is the new challenge, and this is what we need to do to hopefully be even better.”
The Celtics now begin their hunt for a new head coach. Stevens’ first priority will be to fill that void. He explained why a new coach should help the team, and his excitement to begin the search.
“They’re going to get to play for a great coach with some similarities, but also some great new fresh perspectives,” Stevens said. “I’m looking forward to finding that person… people can be reinvigorated by that… this is a great opportunity to give us a good spark when we’re losing one of the best at his job in the world [Danny Ainge].”
Grousbeck also chimed in on the plan to find a new head coach:
“We’re getting started today on that search.”
While Ainge will step away and “play golf a little bit more,” he fully plans on staying close to the Celtics organization. “I’ll be hovering from a distance,” he said. “Yelling at the refs for years to come… this is a good day for me, for my family, my children… we’re excited for the opportunities I have to spend more time with them and to not be as stressed.”