After getting eliminated by the star-studded Brooklyn Nets in Round One, the Boston Celtics made moves very quickly. Long-time executive Danny Ainge has stepped down from President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Brad Stevens has taken the title leaving a vacant head coaching spot. Should people have seen this coming? What does this mean for the future of the Celtics? Who will be the next head coach?
Danny Ainge had been in charge of basketball operations for almost two decades. He has made some amazing moves including trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, trading Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn for multiple firsts which ended up being Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and trading for Isaiah Thomas while giving up nothing. However, Ainge has been criticized recently for trading Isaiah Thomas after his amazing season, not handling the Kyrie Irving situation well, letting Gordon Hayward and Al Horford walk, overpaying for Kemba Walker, and being an inconsistent drafter.
Ainge may have felt this season was the final straw and felt he needed to step away for the team to succeed. Another factor could be his health. A couple of years ago, Ainge suffered a heart attack which hindered his health. Ainge also made some controversial statements on racism in Boston which some of his players disagreed about. Ainge may have felt out of touch with the modern NBA. No one may know why Ainge stepped away but there is no doubt that there is a lot of debate over his time in Boston.
A few coaches have succeeded at being in charge of basketball operations (besides Gregg Popovich). However, Stevens will primarily be the President of Basketball Operations and will not be coaching the team. So, how should Stevens handle the situation.? The obvious answer is to build around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But Danny Ainge was doing that. To avoid having another average season, major moves have to be made. Kemba’s $35 million contracts has to be moved even if it means attaching picks. He hindered the Celtics all season and takes up too much cap space. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will a hundred percent be untouchable. Aaron Nesmith, Peyton Pritchard, Robert Williams, and Romeo Langford will most likely be in Boston next year as they fit the timeline and showed many flashes of their potential. Tristan Thompson is making a lot of money but was a positive for the team so he should be there as well unless Kemba can’t be traded and they need to clear up cap. Jabari Parker provided some nice scoring but was terrible on defense and we know Stevens loves his defense, so Parker will most likely be gone.
The two biggest questions are Marcus Smart and Evan Fournier. Smart has been the heart and soul of the Celtics since he was a rookie. But, they have to pay him next year, and may be the most valuable player outside of Tatum and Brown. Shopping him on the market is definitely a possibility. Evan Fournier is a free agent this summer and is reportedly looking for $20 million. This may be an overpay but the Celtics need to bring him back so they have a spark off the bench. As for Grant Williams, Semi Ojeleye, Tacko Fall, Carson Edwards, Tremont Waters, and Luke Kornet, they can get off the team as they held the team back significantly. The Celtics have one first-round pick and it is slated for Pick 16. Stevens should move up to the late lottery to select either Franz Wagner or Josh Giddey to be playmaking forwards off of the bench. Free Agency wise, the Celtics need veterans that can help immediately and are tough. As for the head coaching job, there a lot of candidates.
The Celtics can go multiple routes when looking for a coach. They can look at former coaches, assistants around the league, or college coaches. For former coaches, there aren’t a lot of solidified candidates. Lloyd Pierce has been a popular name but he failed miserably in Atlanta before being fired. Mark Jackson’s name is always brought up as he is known for developing young players.
Many current assistant coaches can fit the bill but the top candidates should be Sam Cassell, Ime Udoka, Becky Hammon, and Wes Unseld Jr. Sam Cassell is a former player who won championships in Boston. Ime Udoka is also a former player and has been a very successful assistant. Becky Hammon is one of the most well-respected coaches in the league comes from the Popovich coaching tree. Wes Unseld Jr is a young and hard-working guy. As for college coaches, Juwan Howard has been an assistant in the league and has been successful at Michigan. Kara Lawson used to be an assistant with the Celtics before moving to Duke Women’s basketball. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann used to be at Butler like Stevens. This signing could be unexpected like Stevens but there are many safe candidates.
Celtics fans should hope that the next coach can stick around like Stevens and Stevens must make sure the coach has a connection with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Brad Stevens has a great reputation and is a young mind, so it will be extremely interesting to see what happens.
Photo: CBS Boston