The Boston Celtics underwent a serious facelift on Wednesday, with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stepping down and Brad Stevens leaving his post as head coach to replace Ainge.
But the changes could have been even greater had Stevens departed for Indiana to become the school's head men's basketball coach. According to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, "league sources have consistently confirmed that Indiana did indeed drop the bag and he declined, instead choosing to stay in the NBA."
That follows a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski in April that Indiana offered him a seven-year, $70 million deal (2:55 mark):
Indiana fired its former head coach, Archie Miller, in March, replacing him with former New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Woodson. Stevens would have been a huge get, but he chose to remain in the NBA world and then to leave coaching altogether.
"Helping guide this organization has been the thrill of a lifetime, and having worked side-by-side with him since he's been here, I know we couldn't be in better hands than with Brad guiding the team going forward," Ainge said in a statement Wednesday. "I'm grateful to ownership, all of my Celtics colleagues, and the best fans in basketball for being part of the journey."
Stevens, 44, will have his work cut out for him after an incredibly disappointing season that saw the Celtics go just 36-36 and get dismissed from the playoffs in the first round by the Brooklyn Nets.
Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report
#Celtics view of Brad Stevens is as follows: He’s undoubtedly a gr8 basketball mind. That’s why he’s replacing Ainge. The second however, is that Stevens lost the locker room even before this season’s collapse. Both parties agree the front office will best highlight his skill set
Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA
It's also worth noting that Boston Celtics players have been steadfast in their support of Brad Stevens throughout this disappointing season. Multiple times, versions of "It's a lot of things, but it's not on Brad" were said by almost every player on the roster. https://t.co/zSYQsfsnOq
The Celtics have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to work around, but other moves Ainge made—or trades for superstars he chose not to pull the trigger on—haven't worked out so well.
Kemba Walker has two years and $74 million left on his deal (2022-23 is a $37.6 million contract option he'll assuredly exercise), a contract that looks pretty bad following the 31-year-old's mediocre 2020-21 season.
Trading for Evan Fournier didn't add much of a spark. Tristan Thompson's $9.7 million contract for next year isn't great. Recent drafts have been mediocre, with the jury still out on Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard, Robert Williams and Romeo Langford. Desmond Bane and Grant Williams, meanwhile, have left plenty to be desired.
The first key decision for Stevens will be hiring a new coach.
"I'm grateful to ownership and to Danny for trusting me with this opportunity," Stevens said in a statement. "I'm excited to tackle this new role, starting with a wide-ranging and comprehensive search for our next head coach. I love the Celtics, and know the great honor and responsibility that comes with this job. I will give it everything I have to help us be in position to consistently compete for championships."