BOSTON – When Danny Ainge hired Brad Stevens in 2013, there was an undeniable linkage between the two.
Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, was determined to usher in the next wave of Celtics greatness with Stevens at the helm. And Stevens has coached with a doggedness determination since then to get Boston back to being among the league’s elite.
So it’s only fitting that the organization keeps these two linked together for as long as possible, which certainly was a factor in in the decision to announce contract extensions for both Ainge and Stevens on Wednesday.
While the details of their respective new deals remains unclear, you can expect Stevens to get a noticeable pay bump over the six-year, $22 million deal he signed in 2013.
The timing of the announcement comes a month to the day before free agency. The Celtics will be among the many teams with significant salary cap space to pursue free agents such as Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan and Dwight Howard. So Boston is looking to do whatever it can to help make its case as being the best stop for a potential free agent.
And these announced extensions can only help.
Players that the Celtics are targeting will get paid wherever they go. Lots of playing time will be available as well. Ultimately, what may sway a player to sign with one team or another is the chances of winning at a high level within that franchise.
And while the Celtics have yet to win a playoff series under Stevens, there’s no mistaking the steady growth of the organization under his watch.
In an interview with CelticsTalk Podcast on May 12, I asked Celtics co-owner and managing partner Wyc Grousbeck about the prospects of giving Stevens an extension.
“I don’t like to talk about contract stuff before anything is done,” Grousbeck said at the time. “I’m real happy with Brad Stevens, and I’m not the only one. All of us in the organization are happy; the players, the guys that had career years under him.”
Isaiah Thomas was a first-time All-Star this season. Avery Bradley was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive first team for the first time in his career. Evan Turner and Jae Crowder had breakout seasons, as well.
“These are guys that if you asked them, would say the coach had a lot to do with it,” said Grousbeck, adding, “People have taken steps forward and improved so we’re really glad we have Brad. It was probably a risk to hire a college coach to come in; really glad we did it. He’s had a really nice three-year progression.”
And keeping him and Ainge together for many years to come, can only enhance Boston as a potential destination for free-agents-too-be. Coming to Boston, they know the man who puts the roster (Ainge) and the man who coaches that roster (Stevens) aren’t going anywhere soon . . . which should help Boston quest to land a much-needed superstar-caliber player.
Ainge has been Boston’s president of basketball operations for 13 seasons, with the C's compiling a record of 565-484 (.539) under his watch. Boston has made 10 trips to the postseason with a pair of trips to the NBA Finals, which includes winning it all in 2008.
The success of that team earned Ainge the league’s Executive of the Year award.
In Stevens’ three seasons as the Celtics’ head coach, the team has won more regular-season games each year . . . including last season’s squad, which finished in a four-way tie for the third-best record (48-34) in the Eastern Conference.
Stevens has also led the Celtics to the postseason each of the last two seasons.
“My family and I were thrilled to have been approached with this contract extension,” Stevens said in a statement released by the Celtics. “We sincerely appreciate the empowering leadership of our ownership and front office, the opportunity to work alongside such a talented staff, the support of our tremendous fans, and of course the commitment and hard work of the players wearing this jersey. It’s an honor to be a member of the Boston Celtics – and we’ll continue striving for growth in pursuit of Banner 18.”