A major shakeup has taken place at the top of the Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge has stepped down as president of basketball operations, and head coach Brad Stevens has stepped into the role.
Stevens will now lead the search for a new coach. The team made the announcement early Wednesday, one day after the Celtics were eliminated by the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“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 statement. “I’m grateful to ownership, all of my Celtics colleagues, and the best fans in basketball for being part of the journey.”
Ainge, 62, is a franchise legend. The Celtics drafted him out of BYU in 1981. As a player, he won three championships alongside the likes of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and the late Dennis Johnson. He also made Finals appearances with the Portland Trail Blazers and Charles Barkley’s Phoenix Suns before retiring in 1995.
Following a brief stint as coach of the Suns and time as a TNT analyst, Ainge moved into his leadership role with the Celtics in 2003. He was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2008, the same year as Boston’s last title.
But Ainge had been contemplating moving out of his role for several months, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, following an up-and-down season that resulted in a disappointing 36-36 finish.
Meanwhile, Stevens was reportedly suffering from a bit of burnout himself. He was hired by the Celtics in 2013, after leading Butler University to back-to-back NCAA title game appearances. He later guided the Celtics to three appearances in the East finals, but he never could get them to the promised land.
“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.”