The Boston Celtics are undergoing a major makeover less than 24 hours after the team’s season-ending loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Long-time president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is stepping down from his role, and head coach Brad Stevens is set to step up to the front office, leaving his position as Boston’s head coach.
This decision has been on Ainge’s mind for months, which led him to discuss succession plans with Boston ownership, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. While this was simmering, Stevens had become “worn down with coaching since the bubble,” per Wojnarowski, allowing him to welcome the front office opportunity. As Charania reported, Stevens will help lead the Celtics’ search for a new head coach.
Former Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd will be among the top candidates for Boston’s opening, per Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. Celtics assistant Jerome Allen will also interview for the role, according to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears.
“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 via 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 had been Boston’s president of basketball operations since 2003, making him one of the longest-tenured executives in the NBA. He is the only person in the 74-year history of the Celtics to win a championship as both a player and a general manager. Ainge will work with the team on a transition plan throughout the offseason, per the organization. Over the last month or so, Ainge had repeatedly hinted at changes on the horizon in his weekly interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub. It does, however, come as a surprise that he was one of the moving pieces.
In his 18 years as a Celtics front office executive, Ainge won one NBA title and worked with just two head coaches — Doc Rivers and Brad Stevens. Entering the 2020-21 season, Boston had made three of the last four Eastern Conference Finals, but this season did not go as planned. The disappointing campaign comes at the heals of numerous important players walking out the door in Boston over the last few years, including Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris, among others. While Ainge put together a stellar roster on paper in the 2017 offseason, it ultimately blew up without the results he was looking for.
“I’m grateful to ownership and to Danny for trusting me with this opportunity,” Stevens said via 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.”
The Celtics already were staring down an important offseason, but these significant changes at the top make things even more interesting. The organization suddenly finds itself in a head coaching search with a new-look front office. Big decisions are ahead. How do they build around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown? What should they do about Robert Williams’ contract extension? All of these questions, among others, will be answered in the next few months.