Their iconic coach left for Los Angeles. Their two future Hall of Famers whose jerseys almost certainly one day will hang from their rafters are off to Brooklyn.
The Celtics as they were are no more, transformed after an offseason of renovation as the franchise took its first seismic steps toward a new era of rebuilding.
But the big-name departures of Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett have not resulted in negative reaction from fans at the box office.
In fact, according to Celtics president Rich Gotham, about 90 percent of the team’s season-ticket base from last season has re-upped for next season.
“That number is a really strong number,” Gotham said Wednesday. “I think most teams in the NBA would kill for that kind of number.”
That number is considered to be above the league average for season-ticket retention rate, which has been trending upward in recent years and, at the moment, is generally in the low- to mid-80s for most NBA teams.
The Celtics have had higher retention rates, Gotham noted.
“In these past six years, we’ve had years where we were 95 percent and above, so we’re a little bit down,” he said.
“But the good news is the new season-ticket sale demand has been comparable to the past few offseasons.”
Gotham did note that the window for the majority of season ticket-holders to renew was closed by the end of June — before Rivers officially left his post as Celtics coach to join the Clippers; and before Pierce and Garnett were officially dealt to the Nets in a blockbuster.
However, it’s not as though any of these seismic moves came out of nowhere; both deals dominated the local and national news cycle, even stealing the spotlight from the NBA Finals.
“Some of these things, while we weren’t able to confirm them publicly, the public was aware of them,” Gotham said.
Perhaps more impressively, Gotham said that no Celtics season ticket-holders have requested to cancel for the upcoming season.
“You always sort of anticipate that if someone’s favorite player gets traded, they might say, ‘Well, this isn’t what I wanted and I want to get out of my tickets,’ ” he said.
“That hasn’t occurred. And that’s been great.”
The primary factor Gotham pointed to was simply that Celtics fans understood full well that changes — even massive and somewhat emotional ones likely involving beloved players such as Pierce and Garnett — eventually would occur, particularly this offseason.
“Our fans really understand where we are and our team’s evolution and how we need to make changes to get back into championship contention,” Gotham said.
He added, “I think our avid fan base understands the need to get going forward.”
In exchange for allowing Rivers out of his coaching contract, the Celtics acquired an unprotected first-round pick from the Clippers in the 2015 draft.
And in exchange for Pierce, Garnett, Jason Terry, and D.J. White, the Celtics received from the Nets five players (Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, and Kris Joseph), three first-round picks, and the right to swap first-round picks in the 2017 draft.
The Celtics have waived Joseph, but their bounty of newly acquired assets, especially the first-round picks, should help expedite their rebuilding efforts.
Those efforts will be led by 36-year-old Brad Stevens, Rivers’s successor. Stevens, who gained national acclaim for leading Butler University to consecutive national title game appearances, signed a six-year deal worth $22 million with the Celtics.
And that hire, Gotham said, has been largely applauded by fans, as have the other moves.
“You sort of brace yourself a little bit when you talk about trading franchise players and superstars,” he said, “but we’ve been really happy that the fans have done nothing but support the moves.”