Danny Ainge, the former Celtics guard who moved upstairs to the front office and led Boston as its president of basketball operations until earlier this year, has been hired as alternate governor and CEO of the Utah Jazz, the team announced Wednesday.
Ainge, who starred at BYU before being drafted by Boston in 1981, retired from his role with the Celtics in June after an 18-year run at the helm that included winning a title in 2008. He had relocated to Utah after leaving Boston.
Upon his retirement, Ainge dismissed reports that he was stepping aside from the Celtics in order to take a job with another NBA team, notably the Utah Jazz. Now after a nearly six-month absence from the league, he has made the move.
“I’ve taken six or seven months off, and I’ve gotten a good break,” Ainge said in a press conference Wednesday evening. “I feel like I’m energized and ready to come back and get back to work. This is a different role, a unique role, getting the opportunity to work with ownership and work with [head coach] Quin [Snyder] and [GM] Justin [Zanik] and what they’re doing. I’m anxious to get back and get to work.”
In the leadership change, Justin Zanik will retain his role as general manager.
Ainge referenced his willingness to take a reduced role, deferring to Snyder and Zanik while alluding possibly to some of the health issues he has had in recent years.
“It’s not the day-to-day load that I’ve had; I’m in load management,” he added with a smile.
Ainge was straightforward when asked about his departure from Boston.
“I needed a break from Boston,” Ainge said. “And by the way, my 26 years in Boston were an amazing experience. I’ll always be grateful. One of the greatest things I’ve learned in this business was the relationships you build. Championship rings are our goals, and that’s what you really build a bond when you are trying to work for a championship. But the things I really cherish over those 26 years are the relationships that I developed. Those will always be there.
“I’m really looking forward to building new relationships here with this organization. I’m very excited about that. But like I said, the role is different than it was in Boston.”
He was asked if a role like the one he accepted with Utah could have been possible with the Celtics.
“I just needed a break,” he said. “Right now, Boston has moved on; they have three capable people in Brad Stevens and Austin Ainge and Mike Zarren who could run the organization by themselves. Very capable people that have great experience in the business. I just thought the organization was in great hands moving forward.”
Ryan Smith, the owner of the Jazz, said in a release that Ainge is “one of the best basketball minds in the world and he’s also passionate about this state and our community.”
Smith added: “We believe in adding the best talent to all facets of our organization and are lucky to have Danny’s acumen and experience.”
Ainge said he was “excited to be part of [ownership’s] vision for the Jazz” in the release.
“Joining the Jazz was a natural and perfect fit for me, as my roots in Utah are deep and strong,” he said in a statement issued by the team. “This is a team that has a tremendous foundation of players and people.”
Ainge, 62, won titles with the Celtics as a player in the 80s. He was named executive of the year in 2008.