SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In the wake of the news that Dennis Lindsey would be stepping down as the Utah Jazz’s executive vice president of basketball operations, many are speculating that the team would be adding another prominent figure into a front-office role.
It just so happens that Danny Ainge, a longtime top executive with the Boston Celtics and a former national collegiate player of the year at Brigham Young University, is on the market after stepping down from a similar role in Boston.
Several sports media outlets and experts are reporting that Ainge, who has a strong foothold in the state, is a top candidate for a job with the Jazz, perhaps in some sort of advisory role as well. General Manager Justin Zanik is expected to remain in his current position.
ABC4 Sports Director Wesley Ruff thinks that Ainge’s involvement with the Jazz is inevitable.
“The day that Ryan Smith bought the Jazz, I heard a rumor that he would bring Danny Ainge in because they’re good friends, they play golf at Riverside Country Club,” said Ruff, who has been plugged into the Utah golf scene for nearly his entire life.
Ruff added that he heard Ainge had a home in Provo, but was not 100% certain. Several of Ainge’s children are involved in the local community; his son Tanner is currently serving as Utah County Commissioner. In fact, it was suggested by some on social media that Ainge’s failure to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives was affected by his father’s move to sign former Jazz forward Gordon Hayward in July 2017.
Honored as the 2008 NBA Executive of the Year for transactions that brought a championship to Boston that year, including trades for Hall of Famers Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, Ainge has been prolific in the sports world as both a player and a decision-maker.
While playing for BYU from 1977 to 1981, Ainge earned a bevy of honors, including the John R. Wooden Award as the nation’s best player as a senior. Over a 15-year playing career in the NBA, Ainge won a pair of titles and was named an All-Star once with the Celtics. He also had stops in Sacrament and Portland before retiring as a member of the Phoenix Suns in 1995.
After coaching the Suns for a few years, he took a break from working full-time in basketball before being hired as the executive director for basketball operations by Boston in 2003. His breakthrough came in 2008 when the Celtics had the greatest single improvement in league history and won its 17th NBA title at the end of the season.
Known as a crafty dealer in the NBA, other notable Ainge swings include trading Garnett and Paul Pierce with Jason Terry and D.J. White to the Brooklyn Nets for a haul of five players and three first-round draft picks in a deal that unfolded as extremely lopsided for Boston. Ainge also made a deal with Cleveland in 2017 that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston in exchange for often-injured guard Isaiah Thomas.
“They fleeced the Nets, but it hasn’t turned into a championship so I don’t know if Boston fans are upset about it,” remarks sports producer Josh Witzel.
On June 2, Ainge announced that he would be stepping down from his post in Beantown and would be replaced by then-head coach Brad Stevens.
As for whether bringing Ainge on board would be beneficial for the Jazz, Ruff isn’t sure. He thought things were pretty good as they were prior to Lindsey’s announcement on Sunday night.
“I’m not sure what they want to do,” Ruff says of the Jazz. “I thought Lindsey was a great fit, Lindsey orchestrated this whole thing, I don’t know why he’s chosen now to step down. And he’s going to be in an advisory role and if Ainge comes, then it might be in an advisory role so that seems odd. I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”