By Tom Brennan
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Danny Ainge is expected to step down as president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, while Brad Stevens is moving into the front office full-time.
Stevens has been described as worn down with coaching since the 2020 Bubble, and welcomed the chance to make the transition to the front office, sources said. Stevens will help lead the search for his successor as head coach.
The move comes a day after Boston’s disappointing season came to an end in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in Game 5 of their first round playoff series in Brooklyn.
Ainge, 62, was the architect of Boston’s last title team, the 2008 team featuring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and is the third-longest tenured lead executive of any NBA franchise, trailing only longtime nemesis Pat Riley with the Miami Heat (1995) and Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs (1996).
The Celtics are headed into what is a pivotal offseason for the franchise after Boston finished seventh in the Eastern Conference on the heels of making it to the Eastern Conference finals three of the last four years. After years of having surplus draft picks and the opportunity to make moves in free agency, the Celtics find themselves without either this offseason.
Ainge came to Boston in 2003, in one of the first major decisions that owner Wyc Grousbeck made after buying the team the prior fall. The move came about in an unusual way, with Ainge being hired in the middle of the Celtics facing the then-New Jersey Nets during the Eastern Conference semifinals, a series Boston would go on to lose.
Across his 18 years with the Celtics, Ainge has only hired two coaches: Doc Rivers, whom he hired in 2004, after his first season in charge, before shocking the basketball world by hiring then-Butler University coach Stevens, who replaced Rivers after he went to coach the team in 2013.
But, despite the success the Celtics have had in recent seasons, including reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2017, ’18 and ’20, it has been a tumultuous run for the franchise. Ainge was criticized for moving on from Isaiah Thomas in the blockbuster deal that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston during the 2017 offseason. While no one questioned the move from a talent standpoint, Thomas had played hurt in the playoffs and helped the Celtics make the conference finals, and the move revived the old “Trader Danny” moniker that Ainge was given after he’d traded a prior franchise favorite, Antoine Walker, more than a decade earlier.