CHICAGO — The Celtics brass has assembled here this week to scour the NBA Combine for extra intelligence about how to use their three first-round draft picks. But there is one notable absence.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who suffered a mild heart attack prior to the April 30 playoff game against the Bucks in Milwaukee, is back in Boston. Even though he is not here with his staff, however, he is well on the road to recovery, and he remains inextricably connected to this franchise that means so much to him.
“He’s back at it,” said director of player personnel Austin Ainge, who is also Danny’s son. “He’s doing great. He’s been texting me 100 times a day. He loves his job, and he wants to continue doing it.”
Austin Ainge was with his father when he suffered the heart attack on that April afternoon in Milwaukee. He declined to go into details about the incident itself, but exhaled deeply as he acknowledged how it shook their close-knit family.
“It was scary in the moment, for sure,” Ainge said. “But the doctors found the problem and fixed it, and he feels great moving forward. It’s one of those things that’s very scary in the moment, but he’s healthier now than he was a month ago, so that’s all positive.”
Danny Ainge, who turned 60 in March, had his first heart attack 10 years ago. He was hospitalized for several days and had surgery to insert a stent to unclog an artery. His recovery from this latest setback was a bit speedier.
Austin Ainge said the family was fortunate that team doctors were already in Milwaukee, and he raved about the local medical care his father received, too.
“You just feel incredibly grateful for people who put the time and energy to study this and deal with the stress of emergency medical situations,” he said. “They do it every day.
“You feel incredibly grateful for their care, and the Celtics family also that was up all night and helping.
“It’s tough when you’re on the road, right? You don’t know the doctors. And they went above and beyond. From ownership on down, Wyc [Grousbeck] was amazing, making sure everything was taken care of. Our whole family feels extremely grateful.”
Danny Ainge’s job can certainly be quite stressful, particularly during a season like this one, when the Celtics had chemistry issues, won just 49 games, and were eliminated swiftly by the Bucks in the conference semifinals.
Austin Ainge said the family had some talks about whether it might be best for Danny to step back, but it became clear to all of them that this is his passion and his joy.
“We had all those discussions, but the doctors say he’s healthy and doing great, and he loves it,” Austin Ainge said. “He loves it.
“I was teasing my mom that being home with her is more stressful for him than coming into the office and playing around with us.”
Austin Ainge said the family took away Danny’s cellphone for several days after the heart attack and did not let him watch the next few Celtics games on television. Instead, family members from around the country flew to Boston to spend time with him.
Austin joked that his mother Michelle turned 60 this year, too, and they had been planning a big family trip to celebrate their dual milestone birthdays, but that this impromptu family reunion might have to suffice.
Austin Ainge said it’s unclear when his father will be able to start traveling again, but with three first-round picks, the Celtics will not have problems getting prospects to come to Boston anyway. Danny Ainge has already attended several draft workouts at the team’s training facility, and he took part in exit interviews last week.
Otherwise, Ainge has been revamping his diet and taking it slowly, all while keeping a close eye on his team that he still cares so much about.
“He’s doing well and he’s very motivated,” Austin Ainge said. “Pretty much life back to normal. It didn’t take him long to turn into 60-year-old Dennis the Menace again.”