HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Danny Ainge is good at coming up with the move none of us saw coming. But he outdid himself with his latest move, hiring Butler’s Brad Stevens to replace Doc Rivers as his coach and positioning the college coaching star as the man who will have to serve as the brave face as the franchise’s ambitious rebuilding project.
The hire was announced simultaneously by the Celtics and Butler via Twitter, which has to be the first time a team has unveiled its new coach in that matter. But this is Ainge we’re talking about. He’s used to delivering fireworks this time of year, one way or another.
There’s no debating the jaw-dropping aspect of this hire. It’s a complete shocker. (Please forgive the cynic in me for remembering the last time the Celtics hired a superstar from the college ranks, Rick Pitino, and remembering what a disaster that turned out to be.)
That said, Stevens comes with a sterling reputation. He’s got the professor look down, knows the game inside out and has said and done all of the right things during his meteoric rise from a somewhat unknown coach of a mid-major program to one of the hottest names in the coaching game after leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament championship game twice.
There will be a flood of well-wishers, folks who love what Stevens, 36, stands for, applauding this hire. And will once again be lauded for taking a huge risk that could end up paying huge dividends. And he deserves props for making his usual bold foray into a place 99.9 percent of his peers never would.
And there’s no pressure Brad, not when Ainge makes statements like these about his new coach.
“Brad and I share a lot of the same values,” Ainge said in a statement. “Though he is young, I see Brad as a great leader who leads with impeccable character and a strong work ethic. His teams always play hard and execute on both ends of the court. Brad is a coach who has already enjoyed lots of success, and I look forward to working with him towards Banner 18.”
But if you’re Rajon Rondo, the best player on the Celtics’ roster, this is yet another tough pill to swallow. Everything you’ve known the past six seasons, all of the winning and deep playoff runs you made with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, all of the heights that have been reached … it’s all history. The scariest part for Rondo and Celtics fans is that it only took Ainge a week and a half to break it all apart.
They basically traded Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a future Draft pick two days before the Draft, moved Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for a gumbo of players and picks on Draft night and now this. The only thing left to do is to figure out what they can get for Rondo and make that move.
Because even if Ainge swears that Rondo is not on the move, that he will not part with his All-Star point guard (who is coming off a season cut short by a torn ACL), no one is going to believe it, not with the expeditious manner in which Ainge has executed all of these other moves.
He’s keen on rebuilding and rebuilding now for a future he believes will just as bright as the Celtics’ recent past.
Who knows where he goes next?
I’m prepared to be shocked.