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Brad Stevens transitions to leading Celtics Basketball Operations

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Stevens will leave his coaching role after eight season to lead Boston’s front office

Boston Celtics Practice Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Brad Stevens has been promoted to President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics following Danny Ainge’s retirement:

Stevens will not have the dual-role of Head Coach/General Manager. Stevens will instead lead the search for his replacement on the sidelines. This search will begin immediately, per the Celtics.

Boston announced that Ainge will assist in offseason preparations, while Stevens transitions into his new role.

“Helping guide this organization has been the thrill of a lifetime, and having worked side-by-side with him since he’s been here, I know we couldn’t be in better hands than with Brad guiding the team going forward,” said Ainge. “I’m grateful to ownership, all of my Celtics colleagues, and the best fans in basketball for being part of the journey.”

Ainge was hired in 2003 and helped to lead Boston to their record 17th NBA championship in 2008. Celtics Governor Wyc Grousbeck thanked Ainge for his years of service:

“Danny has made all the difference over the past 18 years – our record of winning percentage and playoff victories is near the top of the league during that time. He has always been a relentless competitor and a winner. Red Auerbach told us Danny is ‘lucky,’ and he was right, but a lot of the luck came from his intense drive and his incredible basketball insights.”

Grousbeck also expressed excitement over Stevens taking over the team’s basketball operations:

“Turning to Brad is a natural next step, since we have built a partnership over the past eight years, and he is a special basketball mind. We want him to lead us into the next great era of Celtics basketball.”

Stevens said he’s grateful and excited for his new opportunity:

“I’m grateful to ownership and to Danny for trusting me with this opportunity. I’m excited to tackle this new role, starting with a wide ranging and comprehensive search for our next head coach. I love the Celtics, and know the great honor and responsibility that comes with this job. I will give it everything I have to help us be in position to consistently compete for championships.”

Ainge made the surprise hire of Stevens out of Butler University in 2013, just as the team was kicking off a rebuild following the trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Now, Ainge makes another surprising move, as he steps down as President of Basketball Operations and hands the reins to Stevens.

When the Celtics publicly announced that Stevens had been signed to a long-term contract extension during the bubble in July of 2020, it came with some interesting phrasing. It was noted that the extension was designed around “Keeping Brad in the Celtics organization for the foreseeable future”.

With how rapidly this has all come together, with Boston’s season only ending on Tuesday night, it’s clear this has been in the works for some time. Given that the team made a formal announcement so quickly lends further credence to that idea.

There have been reports that Celtics players had soured on the team’s current leadership due to regular public criticism by Ainge. However, Boston players have steadfastly supported Stevens. Throughout the year, almost every key leader on the team has said some version of “We have a lot of issues, but none of them are Brad”.

Making the transition from coach to front office leader isn’t uncommon in the NBA. Ainge himself made that transition after a few years doing TV. Stevens now faces that same challenge, but without the benefit of time away from a team to prepare.

Stevens takes over with the Celtics in a period of some uncertainty. The roster has some questions around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Those two young All-Stars are signed long-term. Other key players are nearing the ends of their contract, like Marcus Smart, Tristan Thompson and Kemba Walker. And several young Celtics are still on their rookie scale deals.

On top of learning the front office job on the fly, Stevens first order of duty will be to identify who will replace him on the sidelines. Given he’s held down that spot for eight seasons, that’s a major transition. No player on the Celtics has ever played in Boston for a different coach.

It didn’t take long for the fireworks to explode in Boston following the disappointing 2020-21 season. Stay tuned to CelticsBlog for continuing coverage of the front office transition and head coach search.