Celtics

Brad Stevens refutes speculation that Ainge was forced out of C's job

Celtics

Did Danny Ainge really leave the Boston Celtics of his own volition?

That question resurfaced Wednesday when Ainge joined the Utah Jazz as their alternate governor and CEO. Ainge left his post as Celtics president of basketball operations in June and said he wanted to spend time away from the game, but him taking the Utah job made some to wonder if he was pushed to leave Boston.

The man who replaced Ainge, current Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, insisted the C's didn't show Ainge the door.

Danny Ainge opens up about leaving Boston, joining Jazz

"I was here for that entire sequence of events," Stevens said Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich," "and he let everybody know he was stepping away and wanted to step away to have a chance to spend more time with his family, to rejuvenate, and figure out what’s next in life, two months ... (or) a month and a half before it was announced. So, people can write what they want, but it's not true."

Ainge said earlier this summer he considered stepping down from the Celtics as early as May 2019 after he suffered his second heart attack, and that his instincts told him "a couple of months" before the end of Boston's frustrating 2020-21 campaign that it might be a good time to step away.

Ainge added at the time he was open to an NBA job in the future but wasn't interested in the stresses of another GM job, and Stevens believed him.

 

"I truly think he didn't know," Stevens said. "When he left, I got the impression that he -- this is a stressful job. It's a hard job. That and coaching, it gets to wear on you. So, to take care of yourself and to know when you need to recharge or rejuvenate is really important.

"I think he went into it with open eyes and said, 'If I want to do it again, I'll probably be able to do it again somewhere. And if I don't, then great. I've got 16 or 17 grandkids and a thousand golf courses still to play.' I think he was pretty open-minded.

"But the narrative that he was forced out is absolutely not true."

Ainge has strong ties to Utah as a former star at BYU and is close with Jazz owner Ryan Smith, so this is a natural fit. Ainge also admitted Wednesday he "needed a break from Boston," so it's possible he both wanted to take time off and believed his time with the Celtics had run its course.