After bowing out of the playoffs quietly to the Brooklyn Nets, the Boston Celtics entered the offseason loudly. In a shocker Wednesday morning, Danny Ainge resigned as President of Basketball Operations and was replaced by head coach Brad Stevens. This was a twist nobody expected. Beforehand, some were calling for the head of Ainge, others wanted Stevens gone, and still others thought both should be exiled. Instead, Stevens will take over and search for the next head coach of the C’s. While the team faces many questions heading into next year, the big ones are now about this seismic shift.
Did Ainge, 62, just decide he’d had enough — especially after this headache of a season? Or did owner Wyc Grousbeck make the call? Perhaps we’ll never know if Ainge voluntarily retired (who could blame him?) or he was ousted. Some media reports have speculated about him going on to continue his career with the Utah Jazz, which would make some sense considering he’s a Mormon and graduate of BYU. However, in the press conference announcing the changes, he sincerely sounded like someone who wanted to stop working to spend more time with his family. To be more blunt, he looked old in the press conference, which is no disrespect to a Celtic icon who had a heart attack a couple of years ago.
In any case, more odd is Stevens’ move to the front office. Was it his decision? Again, we’ll probably never know, but one could probably presume the answer is yes. It’s hard to imagine he was given the ultimatum, you’re fired, or … you can take over the head of basketball operations. More curious is the decision, assuming it was his, given his young age and the fact that he seemed like a basketball coach’s coach; it’s hard to envision him anywhere but the sidelines. He did hint in the press conference what many speculated was true: players had begun tuning him out. He said, “I’ve been in the locker room with some of those guys for a very long time … and I do think people can be reinvigorated by [a fresh perspective of a new coach.]”
Who’s to blame for this disappointing season? Ainge took the brunt of the blame early in the season, absolving Stevens and admitting the roster was “not good.” His decision to step down backed up this sentiment and proved it was not just lip service. Stevens was more vague, continually falling back to Belichickian one-liners like, “We need to play better.” Considering that his signature has always been defense and the Celtics kept getting worse on D as the season wore on, it seems he lost the team.
That brings us to the elephant in the room: the players. Stevens and Ainge did not play a single minute on court. The team could be given a bit of slack since it was injury-riddled all season. Despite being given regular rest throughout the regular season, Kemba Walker was still unable to play the last two games of the playoffs. Rob Williams, a big contributor much of the season, sat out most of the crucial final games. And, of course, Jaylen Brown went down with a season-ending injury right before the playoffs. Still, as Ainge admitted early on, the roster simply wasn’t good enough to be competitive against good teams. The team’s bench wasn’t deep enough to make up for the injuries. Tatum, the only star to survive the injury bug, seemed to see the writing on the wall. He didn’t check out – scoring 50 in Boston’s only playoff win — but the smile on his face at the end of the knockout game seemed to suggest that he was resigned to losing and relieved the season was over.
After such an unfulfilling season, it’s not surprising that the Celtics are searching for a new coach. What’s surprising is Stevens is doing the searching. There is some talk that the Celtics might hire the NBA’s first female coach, such as the Spurs’ current assistant Becky Hammon. Speaking of the Spurs, could Boston lure the legendary Gregg Popovich away to finish off his Hall of Fame career with banner number 18? While highly improbable, after this season-ending bombshell, anything is possible.
By: Peter Mooney CruelFan.com