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The case for Celtics continuity

Alternate title: the grass isn’t always greener.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Building a competent sports franchise must be immeasurably difficult. And even through all the difficult parts like scouting and drafting, developing and coaching, and game planning and executing are manageable, we are also at the mercy of whatever group of obscenely rich people decide to buy our favorite sports teams. They are chosen not by their knowledge and love of the game, but by how financially suited they are to own a sports franchise.

Do you trust the owners of mega-corporations to make decisions with your best interests in mind? Do you think they act in the interests of other people? Of course they don’t. Your tax dollars get spent on new stadiums, for crying out loud.

If, by some act of god or your preferred high power, these obscenely rich group of people who want to spend your money on a new stadium happen to hire smart people to run your favorite sports team, you’re lucky. And what if everything goes wrong? Fans have some recourse. They can boycott games. They can stop buying jerseys and overpriced concessions. But by calling for radical change to the team’s management structure, you’re basically calling on the mega-rich people to try again after failing the first time. You know what I would rather not do? I’d prefer to avoid putting blind faith in ownership groups more times than is necessary.

Not every strong team has a stable infrastructure at the moment. The Lakers might have one upped the mercenary factor of the 2008 Celtics by adding an entirely new coaching staff to their haul of ring-chasing free agents. But to use any given year’s zero-to-title team as a reason to blow everything up and start over is so incredibly short-sighted.

And Celtics fans do it every year. Every. Single. Year. In the dark corners of the internet, Twitter, and sports talk radio, there are already calls to replace Brad Stevens and put Danny Ainge’s heels to the fire if drastic changes aren’t made to a roster that’s been to three conference finals in four years.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics
Pictured: me, on the sideline telling you all to calm down
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The case for continuity is not going to be my usual defense of Ainge and Stevens. I could list out all the good trades, draft picks, player development, exceptional coaching, and solid free agent signings under their combined tenure, but I won’t. I’ve written and re-written this point several times and I can’t quite find a way to creatively express this other to be as blunt as possible: purely reactionary leadership is a dumpster fire.

If Danny Ainge was on the wrong end of a trade that set the franchise back seven years, I could see the argument of that being a fire-able offense. Not only has this not happened, but nothing even close to that magnitude has taken place since Ainge took over in 2003. Since then, Ainge has hired two head coaches. You know what’s cool about that? Not constantly having to wonder if our new head coach is going to be good.

I don’t have to worry about potential free agents worrying about playing for a newly hired coach.

I don’t have to worry about them worrying about playing under a new general manager.

I don’t like worrying about extra things, and I especially don’t like worrying about other people worrying about things.

I generally wouldn’t make an argument as binary as “stability is good and instability is bad,” but in this specific case, I’m totally doing that. The Patriots have had the same coach for 20 years and they’ve been good for 20 years. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have been a revolving door of chaos and the year-to-year results have reflected that. I could write another whole article on why the ‘beer and chicken’ fiasco was stupid from the start and shouldn’t have led to the nuclear fallout that ensued.

The common narrative is that Ainge is an asset hoarder and that’s why the Celtics haven’t won more than one championship with him. After addressing this numerous times, I don’t find it constructive to shoot down the same narratives every time I sit down to write anymore.

Narratives and history in sports are things I care deeply about, but I’m starting to realize they’re treated like any other subject: information is cherry picked and sometimes altered to fit whatever conclusion people have already come to in their own mind. Sports talk shows and social media are probably to blame for driving a wedge between such non-polarizing issues such as “building a sustainable and successful sports franchise, even if it was a result of pure luck.”

Here’s a Bleacher Report article from 2009 calling for Ainge’s head after a trade proposal with the Detroit Pistons never materialized. He offered Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo for Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rodney Stuckey. I thought LeBron’s Decision is what broke sports media, but I guess we’re giving him too much credit.

It’s yearly tradition at to call for Ainge’s public execution over whatever went wrong. Brad Stevens isn’t safe either.

WEEI suggesting that the Celtics “break up” with Marcus Smart is no different. I know it’s just for content, but still. Why is this the only way to make money in Boston sports media? Who hurt all of you?

Like other worldly issues (ones that start with “climate” and rhyme with “Ainge”), the most dishonest argument is that there should even be an argument in the first place. And like the children we are, we engage in debate over the validity of information that doesn’t need validating instead of addressing why the argument needed to be had in the first place.

Debating the success of any given coach or general manager might as well be a dead end. The real question is: why are Boston sports fans so uniquely obsessed with firing team staff? Why is the city that props itself up on grandiose tales of sports dominance so quick to give up after the slightest encounter with adversity? Or, in more succinct terms:

The perfect storm of quarantine, video games, the Celtics losing, and various other media has broken my brain in such a way that I’m looking at how Boston sports culture fits into my greater life philosophy that I honestly couldn’t define if you asked me to. I like the example that the Celtics set with having an owner who doesn’t meddle (as far as we know), a general manager who is accountable, a coach with a now-proven record of player development and who doesn’t bring any unneeded theatrics, all of whom have assembled a group that I genuinely think is the most enjoyable Celtics roster since I started watching basketball.

The very last thing the Celtics can afford is some sort of internal power struggle, like Daryl Morey and Tillman Fertitta’s creative differences regarding which point guard is the correct choice to pair up with James Harden. Fertitta intervened with Morey’s vision and what was the result? Morey and Mike D’Antoni took the fall in Houston. Bad owners are the absolute bane of success in professional sports.

So, I leave you with the following request: stop trying to blow up the Celtics.

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