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Danny Ainge steps down as Celtics president, Brad Stevens replaces him

Boston Celtics vs LA Clippers

BOSTON, MA. - FEBRUARY 13: Danny Ainge, General Manager of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter of the NBA game against the LA Clippers at the TD Garden on February 13, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Digital First Media via Getty Im

Danny Ainge, who has run the Celtics since 2003, has stepped down as team president after 19 seasons, following an injury-filled first-round exit from the playoffs.

Brad Stevens is moving from the Boston bench to take his place in the front office. With that, the team will start the search for a new coach. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke this story and now the Celtics have confirmed the move.

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

“Danny has made all the difference over the past 18 years — our record of winning percentage and playoff victories is near the top of the league during that time. He has always been a relentless competitor and a winner. Red Auerbach told us Danny is ‘lucky,’ and he was right, but a lot of the luck came from his intense drive and his incredible basketball insights,” said Wyc Grousbeck, Celtics Co-Owner and Governor.

With Stevens taking over as the head of basketball operations, he will work with long-time Boston assistant GM Mike Zarren.

It is very early in the coaching search for former Bucks and Nets head coach Jason Kidd — currently an assistant with the Lakers — and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce are names that have come up in rumors.

Earlier this season, Ainge was asked about retirement and said this, via NBC Sports Boston:

“When I came back to take this job in Boston, I wasn’t sure if I’d be here three or five years. In this world, you just never know. I think I’ll know when it’s time (to retire), but not yet. It’s something I’ve contemplated, but I have no idea when that’s going to happen.”

Ainge may not retire from the NBA. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take on a Jerry West-like consulting role with a franchise.

This has been a disappointing season in Boston, and a lot of fingers were pointed at Ainge for the roster construction. A couple of years ago, the Celtics seemed to be poised to be at the top of the East for years — they had young cornerstone stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, a lot of draft picks, and a lot of options. However, since then there has been a talent drain in Boston, with a number of good players leaving the franchise for nothing or next to it.

Because of that and this year’s early playoff exit, there were a lot of big questions for Stevens and the Celtics front office:

• Do they re-sign Evan Fournier, the one player they picked up with the massive Gordon Hayward trade exception?
• Do they trade Kemba Walker or get his knee right, bring him back, and hope he stays upright? Could they trade him without throwing in too many sweeteners? Walker can still be a force when healthy, but he missed a lot of time this season, including the final couple of games of the playoffs, and has two seasons at $73.7 million remaining on his contract.
• Is Robert Williams the future at center, or do they need to find a big man that fits the system?
• Is Marcus Smart part of the Celtics’ core? He will enter the last year of his contract, and if the Celtics are not going to pay him big money in the summer of 2022 they need to consider trading him. But could they get someone better, someone who could be as critical to their defense?

Those are just some of the questions, but now Stevens and not Ainge will be answering them.