Born in Eugene, Ore., on March 17, 1959, Danny Ainge’s early life foreshadowed his career as a two-sport professional athlete. As a student at North Eugene High School, Ainge was successful in basketball, baseball and football. He averaged 24.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists for the basketball team and was an All-State football player in both his junior and senior years.
Ainge entered Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, in 1977. During his 4-year collegiate career, he set nine Western Athletic Conference records and 10 school records . He was selected as College Basketball Player of the Year in 1981, the same year he led BYU to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. His academic performance was also successful; Ainge was voted two-time Academic All-America by the College Sports Information Directors of America. And he did all this while playing professional baseball. Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 1977 amateur draft, Ainge made his major league debut on May 21, 1979. He played for the Blue Jays until being released on Nov. 27, 1981.
In August 1978, the San Diego Clippers traded Ainge as a future 1981 second round pick to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics drafted Ainge with the eighth pick in the second round (31st overall) of the 1981 Draft. An All-Star in 1988, Ainge helped the Celtics advance to four NBA Finals in the 1980s, winning championships in 1984 and 1986. Ainge and Brad Lohaus were traded to the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 23, 1989. The Kings traded Ainge to the Portland Trail Blazers on Aug. 1, 1990. After 2 years in Portland, Ainge signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free agent on July 3, 1992. He remained with the Suns until he retired on Sept. 18, 1995. Ainge finished his career third in NBA playoff history for games played (193) and sixth in most three-pointers made (172). He was also one of three players in NBA history to make 1,000 or more career three-pointers.
After a year as a TNT color analyst, Ainge joined the Suns as an assistant coach before the 1996-97 season. When the Suns began the season 0-8, Ainge was promoted to head coach and led the team to a 40-34 record. He led the Suns to three playoff appearances and compiled a 136-90 record before resigning on Dec. 13, 1999. Ainge then returned to TNT as an analyst.
On May 9, 2003, the Celtics hired Ainge as their executive director of basketball operations. The Celtics finished 36-46 in Ainge’s first season on the job (Jim O’Brien served as head coach for the first 46 games, John Carroll for the last 36) – eight victories less than the year before – and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Under new coach, Doc Rivers, the Celtics improved to 45-37 in 2004-05 but were again eliminated in the first round. Boston compiled a 57-107 record over the next two years, but thanks to Ainge’s off-season acquisitions, the Celtics made a stunning recovery in 2007-08, finishing 66-16. Ainge was named The Sporting News 2008 NBA Executive of the Year as the Celtics won their league record 17th championship, the team’s first in 22 years.
The Celtics posted winning records in each of the next four years and advanced to the 2010 Finals, which they lost, but by the 2012-13 season, it was time for them to rebuild. Ainge traded aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for a group of players and three first-round draft picks. In exchange for Ainge letting Rivers leave to coach the Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics received a first round draft choice. Brad Stevens, the 36-year-old former coach at Butler University, was hired to replace Rivers, making him Boston’s first coach with no NBA experience since Red Auerbach in 1950. “Though he is young, I see Brad as a great leader who leads with impeccable character and a strong work ethic,” Ainge said in a release. “His teams always play hard and execute on both ends of the court. Brad is a coach who has already enjoyed lots of success, and I look forward to working with him towards Banner 18.”