Celtics

How long were Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge mulling C's shakeup?

Celtics

The news appeared to come out of the blue: About 12 hours after the Celtics' season ended in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, Danny Ainge was out as Boston's president of basketball operations with Brad Stevens vacating his head coach role to take Ainge's place.

So, what went down behind the scenes and how did things happen so quickly?

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In a virtual press conference Wednesday, Ainge said he began to seriously consider moving on from the Celtics as early as 2019, after he suffered his second heart attack that May.

"When I had a heart attack two years ago, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life," Ainge told reporters.

As Ainge's family urged him to step away for his own health, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing a fresh set of challenges that took their toll on the 62-year-old.

"These last two years have been tough," Ainge said. "In the bubble and the rules and scrutiny and protocols we’ve had to go through, the job hasn’t been as much fun."

The Celtics' frustrating 2020-21 season was the final straw for Ainge, who admitted his instincts told him "a couple of months ago" it was time to move on after more than 18 years with the organization.

 

That's when Stevens entered the equation.

"The thought of going into this position was never a thought because Danny was here, and he was the best at it and the best to work for," Stevens said during Wednesday's press conference. "When he decided it was time to move on and retire and enjoy more time with his family, we talked a little bit about whatever it was."

According to Stevens, Boston's leadership shakeup was already a done deal prior to the Celtics' loss in Brooklyn on Tuesday -- which meant he had to bite his tongue as his coaching tenure came to an end.

"Yesterday when I knew as the game was winding down and you know ... that's the last game that you're coaching -- I wanted to be able to share that with somebody, obviously. But I couldn't do that in that time," Steven said. 

"But there were moments on the bus and on the plane where I just kind of closed my eyes and thought about the incredible opportunity the past eight years have been and the incredible opportunity that's ahead."

While changes were to be expected this offseason after an underwhelming 36-36 campaign and a first-round playoff exit, few expected such drastic changes this soon. It appears Ainge, Stevens and Celtics ownership were ready for an overhaul, though, and had a plan in place well before season's end.