Former Boston Celtics executive Danny Ainge has landed a job with the Utah Jazz as their new alternate governor and CEO. The move will not shift current Jazz general manager Justin Zanik from his present role.
Per the team, Ainge will begin his role immediately and Ainge and his wife, Michelle, recently moved to Utah.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 15, 2021
Ainge had served as the Boston Celtics’ president of basketball operations from 2003-21 but retired in June after the team’s playoff exit. Even back then, he had been linked to a role with the Jazz because of his close friendship with Jazz owner Ryan Smith and his close ties to the state from his playing days at BYU.
“Danny is one of the best basketball minds in the world and he’s also passionate about this state and our community,” Smith said in a team statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to bring Danny on board to work alongside Justin, [Jazz coach] Quin [Snyder] and me. Danny will help make our organization stronger in pursuit of our collective goal — winning an NBA title.”
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, that close friendship served as the impetus for this new role with the Jazz and Ainge is expected to oversee basketball operations and work closely with Zanik.
Jazz owner Ryan Smith has had a longtime friendship with Ainge, who was a legendary player at BYU. Ainge stepped down as Celtics GM after last season, but now returns with the Jazz to oversee basketball operations and work closely with GM Justin Zanik.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 15, 2021
Ainge, 62, won championships with the Celtics as a player in 1984 and ’86. He was voted the league’s top executive in 2008, when Boston won its 17th championship — an NBA record that has since been matched by the Los Angeles Lakers. Additionally, Ainge was coach of the Phoenix Suns from 1996-2000, amassing a 136-90 record and made the playoffs three times.
Ainge said in June that after having a heart attack two years ago, “I started thinking about what I was doing with my life.”
“You’re surrounded by your six children in the hospital and they say, ‘Hey, you need to stop doing this,’” he said then. “I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t have any plans. Right now my goal is to get Brad up to speed on the draft … put the Celtics in the best place they can be. I’ll make the decision on the future somewhere in the future.”
When Ainge stepped down, the team promoted then-coach Brad Stevens into Ainge’s role.
The Jazz have won seven straight games and are No. 3 in the Western Conference at 19-7, trailing only the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors. Utah has undergone some front-office transition in the past year, with Smith taking over ownership from the Larry Miller family in 2020. Additionally, former Miami Heat star and NBA legend Dwyane Wade joined the team’s ownership group last year.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.