The Boston Celtics were expected to have a fair amount of change this offseason after a very disappointing 2020-21 campaign that ended Tuesday night in Brooklyn. However, Wednesday's news that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was stepping down and that Coach Brad Stevens was leaving the bench to replace Ainge qualified as a shocker. SportsLine offers NBA odds on the next Celtics head coach – Stevens will lead the search.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that: "Ainge has been contemplating leaving the job for several months and had been talking about possible succession plans with ownership. Stevens turns out to be the franchise's choice. Ainge also moved from head coaching in the NBA to the front office with Phoenix."
Stevens was reportedly offered a seven-year, $70 million deal earlier this year to take the coaching job at Indiana University, but Stevens, a native of the Hoosier State, turned it down. Woj also reported that Stevens was "has been described as worn down with coaching since the Bubble." Stevens was 354-282 in his eight seasons with Boston and 38-40 in the playoffs. The Celtics made three Eastern Conference Finals, including in the Bubble, losing in each.
The Celtics' job is one of the best in the NBA with the history of the franchise and the fact the team has two young All-Stars under long-term contracts in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Sam Cassell, who won three NBA championships as a point guard in the league, seems to be the consensus favorite. He played for Boston (on the 2007-08 title team) and has been a long-time assistant under former Celtics coach Doc Rivers, including this past season in Philadelphia. Thus, Cassell has plenty of ties to the franchise.
Chauncey Billups also played for Boston – No. 3 overall pick in 1997 by Rick Pitino (no, he's not coming back) -- and has been rumored for numerous head coach and front office openings the past few years as Billups is well regarded around the league. His first year as an assistant coach, though, was this season with the Clippers.
Perhaps Stevens decides to promote from within and gives assistant Jay Larranaga his first head coaching gig in the NBA. He did coach in the G-League, and in 2013 Larranaga was interviewed by the Celtics to possibly replace Rivers, but Stevens got the job. Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. is considered a rising star in the profession. Ditto Warriors assistant Jarron Collins.
No doubt the Celtics will call the likes of Michigan's Juwan Howard and Villanova's Jay Wright from the college ranks, but neither has given any indication of leaving where they are. Wright could have had the 76ers job after last season (instead of Rivers) and not had to move from his hometown of Philadelphia. Howard is building a powerhouse in Ann Arbor.
Former NBA coaches such as Jason Kidd, Lloyd Pierce, Mark Jackson, Kenny Atkinson and Jeff Van Gundy likely will be on any list. If the Celtics really want to make waves, though, they would hire Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and make her the first female head coach in the NBA. She has all the qualifications and may eventually take over for Gregg Popovich in San Antonio if not hired away first.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Next Celtics head coach
- Sam Cassell +300
- Chauncey Billups +400
- Jay Larranaga +500
- Jason Kidd +700
- Becky Hammon +800
- Kenny Atkinson +900
- Jeff Van Gundy +1000
- Wes Unseld Jr. +1100
- Mark Jackson +1200
- Lloyd Pierce +1300
- Mike D'Antoni +1400
- Jarron Collins +1500
- Jay Wright +2500
- Juwan Howard +3000
- Rick Pitino +5000
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