SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A move that has been speculated for months finally became official for the Utah Jazz.
Former BYU star Danny Ainge has taken an important role with the team as an alternate governor and CEO of the state’s NBA franchise, with a focus on the team’s basketball operations, a report by ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski declares.
Justin Zanik, who serves as the club’s general manager, will remain in his current position, Wojnarowski reports.
Back in June, rumors swirled that Ainge, who has ties to the state as a former star at BYU and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in addition to several children who work visible jobs in Utah (his son, Tanner, is serving as Utah County Commissioner) may look to get involved with the Jazz. The chatter came shortly after the announcement that Dennis Lindsey would be stepping down as Utah’s executive vice president of basketball operations.
A former John R. Wooden Award winner at BYU as the nation’s best player in 1981, Ainge went on to an accomplished two-sport pro career that included 15 years in the NBA and parts of three seasons in Major League Baseball.
After his playing days, Ainge briefly coached with the Phoenix Suns before taking a few years off and later becoming the executive director of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics in 2003. As a team-building executive, Ainge developed a reputation for swinging major trades.
His deals to bring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston are credited as the impetus for the Celtics’ run to the greatest turnaround in NBA history and the 2008 NBA title.
Notable Ainge-brokered 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,” remarked ABC4 sports producer Josh Witzel in June.
Ainge stepped down from his post in Boston in June, just weeks before Lindsey’s post became available.
ABC4 Sports Director Wesley Ruff, who gathers most of his sports scene intel on the golf course, predicted that one day, Ainge would join the fold with the Jazz.
“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.
As it turns out, golfing buddies can turn into a relationship in the front office of an NBA franchise as owner Ryan Smith indeed has brought in Ainge to lift the Jazz to hopefully further heights.
“We have big aspirations for Smith Entertainment Group and the Utah Jazz. Danny is one of the best basketball minds in the world and he’s also passionate about this state and our community,” said Smith in a press release issued by the team on Wednesday. “We believe in adding the best talent to all facets of our organization and are lucky to have Danny’s acumen and experience. The Jazz are in great hands with the incredible leadership of General Manager Justin Zanik and Head Coach Quin Snyder. We couldn’t be more excited to bring Danny on board to work alongside Justin, Quin and me. Danny will help make our organization stronger in pursuit of our collective goal–winning an NBA title.”
Heading into Wednesday’s home game against the L.A. Clippers, Utah sits in third place in the Western Conference with a 19-7 as the Jazz continue to chase that elusive first title.