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What Brad Stevens’ promotion, Danny Ainge’s departure mean for the Celtics

The Celtics are making major changes to their organizational structure.

After 18 years in charge of the front office, Danny Ainge will step down from his GM role. Replacing him as the head of basketball operations will be Brad Stevens, who served as Boston’s coach the past eight seasons, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The team will now search for a new coach.

Why it matters: Ainge has been a long-time staple of the front office and Stevens had been the Celtics’ second-longest tenured head coach since Tommy Heinsohn finished coaching in 1978.

  • The Celtics are coming off a disappointing season that saw them finish as the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed with a 36-36 record. They endured health, chemistry and depth issues en route to a first-round exit in the playoffs, issues in which the coaching staff and front office played a role.
  • Boston has had just two coaches since 2004 while Ainge has been the GM since 2003. They have long had stability in the front office and with the coaching staff. Now, they’ll be undergoing some rare changes.
  • Jayson Tatum, 23, and Jaylen Brown, 24, have only played for Stevens during their careers. The two young superstars will now have to adapt to a new coaching system for the first time in their NBA careers.

MORE: Video of Kyrie Irving stomping Celtics logo sparks debate

What Ainge accomplished: Though the final seasons of the Ainge era had some bumps, Ainge still was one of the more accomplished, and active, general managers in the NBA over the past 20 years.

  • “Trader Danny” moved fan-favorite Antoine Walker early in his tenure with the team.
  • Ainge orchestrated the deals that brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston to form the title-winning “Big 3” in 2008.
  • He also later traded Garnett and Paul Pierce in exchange for the package of draft picks that became Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
  • Ainge masterminded the ill-fated Isaiah Thomas/Kyrie Irving trade that ended up largely backfiring for both sides.

What Stevens accomplished: Stevens helped accelerate what was supposed to be a Celtics rebuild and made the team an Eastern Conference contender despite thin-looking rosters.

  • Boston made the playoffs in seven of Stevens’ eight seasons as coach, with three Eastern Conference Finals appearances.
  • His 318 wins are the fourth-most in Celtics history behind Red Auerbach, Heinsohn and Doc Rivers.
  • Despite his solid performance, at least one prominent member of the Celtics’ organization wanted to fire him amid the 2020-21 season, per SNY’s Ian Begley.

What’s next for the Celtics?: They’ll need to hire a coach to replace Stevens, and that will be his first big move in the front office.

  • Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reports that Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce are expected to be candidates for the Boston job.

The bottom line: The Celtics apparently weren’t happy with how the 2020-21 season went. They’re hoping these changes will get them back on track toward being a true contender again.


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