Daniel (Danny) Ray Ainge
(born March 17
in Eugene, Oregon
) is a retired American professional basketball
player who is currently the General Manager
and Executive Director of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics
of the NBA
. He has played in the NBA for the Celtics, Sacramento Kings
, Portland Trail Blazers
, and Phoenix Suns
, and also in Major League Baseball
for the Toronto Blue Jays
Early sports playing career
Talented in multiple sports, Ainge starred in high school on his football
team and led North Eugene High School
to back-to-back state basketball championships in 1976-77, earning all-state honors both years. He also was named to the 1977 Parade Magazine
High School All-America team.
Ainge played basketball at Brigham Young University and became a household name after hitting one of the greatest shots in NCAA March Madness history against Notre Dame in 1981. His coast to coast drive with only seven seconds remaining gave the Cougars a one point win. Ainge concluded his senior year by winning the Eastman Award as well as the John R. Wooden Award - given to the best collegiate player in the nation. During his four-year career at BYU, Ainge was an All-American, a two-time First Team Academic All-American, the WAC Player of the Year and a four-time All-WAC selection.
Ainge was selected in baseball's 1977 amateur draft by Toronto. He made it to the major leagues with the Blue Jays in while still in college, but amassed only modest numbers for the team. After 4 years with the Blue Jays, Ainge decided to pursue a career in basketball and was chosen in the 1981 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, who had to buy out Ainge's contract from the Blue Jays after enduring a legal battle over the rights to it.
Not everything went well for Ainge in basketball at first. According to Larry Bird
in his autobiography Drive
, Ainge had a terrible first day of practice, "shooting 1-19". The coach gave Ainge a rough time, saying his batting average was better than his shooting percentage on the basketball court. But Ainge became one of the important pieces of the team that won the NBA title in 1984
, and a major contributor of the mid to late 1980s Celtics teams. Accordingly, he was known as a hard-nosed player, who usually infuriated opponents with his combative style and brash personality. In a 1983
playoff game against Atlanta
, he exchanged blows with the 7 foot 1 inch Tree Rollins
and was ejected from the contest. Larry Bird gives an account about Ainge's fight with Rollins in his autobiography Drive
. Bird said that Danny had called Rollins a sissy earlier which ended up in the two fighting. Bird said that after the fight was broken up, Ainge rose up off the floor laughing, stating, "That big sissy just bit me." Also, while playing for the Phoenix Suns, Ainge got into a tussle with Michael Jordan
at mid court and both were given a technical foul.
In 1989, Ainge was traded to the Sacramento Kings for young center Joe Kleine, whom the Celtics saw as a possible substitute to the aging Robert Parish, and Ed Pinckney.
In 1990, Ainge was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. Being a native of Oregon, he was considered a hometown favorite by Blazers fans. He helped the Blazers reach the 1992 NBA Finals, only to succumb to the Chicago Bulls in six games. He tied a record in this series: On June 5, he scored nine points in the extra period to tie an all-time NBA record for most points in an overtime during a finals game.
After the 1991-92 NBA season, Ainge became a free agent. He had stated in media interviews that he ideally wanted to stay in Portland, and would contact Blazers management before seriously entertaining offers from other teams. On July 1, 1992, however, Ainge signed a contract with the Phoenix Suns on his first day of free agency.
The Phoenix Suns were a team looking for a new identity. They inaugurated a new home (America West Arena), hired a new head coach (Paul Westphal) and a new superstar (Charles Barkley). The team also redesigned their logo and uniform when they signed free agent Ainge prior to the 1992-93 NBA season, figuring that his experience would help the team during the playoffs. Ainge responded by scoring 11.8 points per game as the Suns went 62–20 that year and reached the NBA finals, where they lost to Michael Jordan's Bulls in six games.
Ainge retired after the 1994-1995 season. He was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
Post-basketball playing career
While a player with the Blue Jays, Ainge opened a national chain of hat stores which he has since sold. He has volunteered his time at a number of charitable organizations and has held a number of jobs since retiring, including head coach of the Suns, broadcaster for TNT
, and, since 2003, Executive Director of Basketball Operations for the Celtics. His resignation from the Suns coaching job was a sudden one; he cited a need to spend more time with his family. He was replaced by Assistant Coach Scott Skiles
Ainge has often been controversial in his role as a Celtics executive, trading popular players such as three-time All-Star Antoine Walker and having personality conflicts with head coach Jim O'Brien that led to the departure of O'Brien to the Philadelphia 76ers (a job he would also depart from a year later). However, Ainge kept the support of former head coach Red Auerbach, who was employed by the team as a "senior assistant" until his death in October 2006, and the current ownership group.
The 2006-07 Celtics finished with a 24-58 record, second-worst in the team's history. Following the season, Paul Pierce, team captain and face of the franchise, expressed frustration with the team's failures. He requested a trade to a contender if management were unable to acquire veteran talent of Pierce's caliber.
Ainge responded with two bold moves that changed the franchise's fortunes almost overnight: the 2007 trades for the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Garnett and the Seattle SuperSonics' Ray Allen immediately returned the Celtics to the ranks of the NBA's elite franchises for the first time since the early 1990s. Together with Paul Pierce, the new "Big Three" led the Celtics to the NBA's best record (66-16) during the 2007-08 NBA season. It was the most dramatic single-season improvement in league history (42 more wins than the previous year), and it earned Ainge the NBA Executive of the Year award.
The Boston Celtics played the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals, renewing the long rivalry between the two teams. Boston won in six games. Danny Ainge held the trophy for the first time since winning the elusive and iconic piece of Boston's cherished history in 1986.
- In an early 1990s episode of Married… with Children, light mockery was made at Ainge's expense: At a fictional All-Star basketball game attended by the Bundy family, the public announcer said Ladies and Gentleman, Here are your NBA All Stars and Danny Ainge!. Clyde Drexler also laments when watching Peggy shooting a free throw that "if we had her instead of Ainge, we would have won the championship".
- Danny Ainge is also discussed during the 1999 movie Mumford, where several of the characters are very impressed by him being both a professional basketball and baseball player, and one names her dog after him.
- Ainge, a second baseman with the Blue Jays, hit .220 in his baseball career, with 2 home runs. As a basketball player, on January 18 1994 he became the second man ever to hit 900 three-point shots in NBA history (he made 1,002 three pointers for his career), and he scored 11,964 points for an average of 11.5 points per game, 2,768 rebounds for an average of 2.7, and 4,199 assists, a total of four per game.
- While playing wide receiver at North Eugene H.S., Ainge was named to the Parade All-American Team as a Junior. He was considered one of the top prep football recruits in the state of Oregon.
- Ainge played on the losing end of Len Barker's 1981 perfect game, going 0-for-2.
- Danny Ainge is the only person to be a high school first team All-American in football, basketball, and baseball.
- Ainge had a cameo appearance in the movie The Singles Ward.
- Danny Ainge is the youngest player in Toronto Blue Jays history to hit a home run. (20 years 77 days)
Ainge and his wife, Michelle, currently make Wellesley, Massachusetts
their home; they have six children. His son, Austin, played basketball at BYU and was an Honorable Mention at the All-Mountain West Conference during the 2004-05 and the 2006-07 seasons as a sophomore and a senior. Austin was named an assistant men's basketball coach at Southern Utah University
alongside Roger Reid
in 2007, he has since departed from the SUU men's basketball coaching staff. His nephew, Erik Ainge
, who, as a senior, was the starting quarterback on the football team at the University of Tennessee
. On April 26, 2008, Erik Ainge was selected in the 5th round of the NFL draft by the New York Jets
. Another nephew, Landon Ainge, was a back-up point guard on Lake Oswego High School
's Oregon state championship basketball team alongside 2007 Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award
standout and future NBA prospect Kevin Love
. A third nephew, Ryan Toolson, is a stand-out guard at Utah Valley University
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