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Danny Ainge retires, Brad Stevens moves from Celtics coach to president of basketball operations

Now that the Boston Celtics have been eliminated from the 2021 NBA playoffs, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is resigning from his post to retire, with head coach Brad Stevens moving to take his position, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania:

A news release on the team’s official website confirmed the massive shakeup in the organization, featuring statements from all the prominent people involved, including Ainge:

“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…I’m grateful to ownership, all of my Celtics colleagues, and the best fans in basketball for being part of the journey.”

Celtics co-owner and governor Wyc Grousbeck praised the job Ainge did during his 18-year run as an executive, which featured an NBA title in 2008.

Grousbeck said of Stevens’ new role, “Turning to Brad is a natural next step, since we have built a partnership over the past eight years, and he is a special basketball mind. We want him to lead us into the next great era of Celtics basketball.”

Stevens also spoke about the situation, indicating that the search for a new head coach would begin right away, and said he’s “grateful to ownership and to Danny for trusting me with this opportunity.”

An untimely injury to Jaylen Brown gave the Celtics little chance of competing against the star-studded Brooklyn Nets in the opening round of the postseason. Tuesday’s 123-109 Game 5 loss saw Boston eliminated with ease.

While the early playoff exit was widely expected, the iconic Celtics franchise was always going to enter a crossroads this NBA offseason.

Although Ainge has assembled lots of young talent, various factors have caused Boston to underachieve. Their personalities haven’t exactly meshed over the past several years as Ainge has tweaked the roster. The basketball fit hasn’t been ideal at times. Injuries have also played a part.

Celtics making bold move replacing Danny Ainge with unproven Brad Stevens

Celtics making bold move replacing Danny Ainge with unproven Brad Stevens
Jun 1, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens coaches his team against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter of game five of the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to this news breaking, there was a sense that Stevens could be the fall guy, and in a way, he was. Stevens was praised at the beginning of his time in Boston for making the most of a lackluster squad, but even with all the upgrades Ainge has brought in, the Celtics can’t quite seem to get over the hump.

From the looks of everything, decision-makers at the highest level of the organization believe more in Stevens’ ability to tweak the roster to his liking, as opposed to a continued collaboration with Ainge.

Despite the exchanged pleasantries when Wednesday’s news broke, obviously there was some internal friction, especially as the Ainge-Stevens partnership didn’t lead to an NBA Finals appearance. Some kind of change in Boston was inevitable. The bottom-line results just weren’t there.

It’s a little surprising that Stevens gave up coaching to get in more on the front office side, but maybe with more sway on roster decisions, he can help the C’s fully capitalize on an excellent core led by Brown and Jayson Tatum.

Then again, Stevens has never had true NBA executive experience. The closest thing he had to that was building a mid-major juggernaut at Butler University when he was convincing recruits to come play for him. This is an entirely different ballgame, and it comes on the heels of Ainge’s largely successful, lengthy tenure.

Time will tell if it was a mistake to keep Stevens in the fold with so much power. His message in the Celtics’ locker room appears to have fallen flat of late.

Will Stevens pull off a blockbuster trade this summer? Will he stay pat with his current nucleus of players? Whatever happens, it’ll be fascinating to see how Stevens fares on the basketball operations side of things in addition to juggling coaching duties.