Jazz Excited To Welcome Experienced Ainge

Dec 15, 2021, 7:24 PM
Danny Ainge and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)...
Danny Ainge and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – From Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith to general manager Justin Zanik, to head coach Quin Snyder, one thing was clear on day one for Danny Ainge, the organization is excited to add his experience.

On Wednesday, the team announced that Ainge had been hired as the Jazz’s CEO, leaving many to wonder how the addition of the longtime Boston Celtics president of Basketball Operations would fit in the mix between Smith and Zanik.

During Ainge’s brief meeting with the media and a less formal conversation with Zanik on Wednesday night, the team’s brain trust elaborated on how they see the marriage working.

“I’m not going to be the guy that’s running the day-to-day,” Ainge said. “That’s going to be Justin, so we’ll have an opportunity to communicate with him and share with him experiences that I’ve had.”

After all, Ainge has a lot of experience to share after spending 40 years in the NBA.

The newest Jazz front office member was selected by the Celtics with the 31st pick of the 1981 NBA Draft out of BYU, was named an All-Star in 1988, and won two titles alongside Larry Bird before moving into coaching with the Phoenix Suns, and ultimately an executive position with Boston in 2003.

“He’s succeeded as a player and as a coach, as well as an executive for 18 years,” Smith said of Ainge. “He brings three championships to this organization and has a unique role. It’s an unprecedented role that hasn’t existed for us.”

While Ainge has adopted the CEO title, he won’t have the same daily responsibilities he had when overseeing the Celtics, including their title run in 2008.

“I have a really good feel and understanding of the NBA today and who those players are,” Ainge said of his role, “and I can be a sounding board for [Zanik], and for any player eventually. I think this is going to take some time to develop as we develop the relationships in the organization.”

Though Ainge downplayed how quickly he could help the team, Zanik seemed more enthusiastic about the immediate returns.

“Anytime you can aggregate the ‘Yes, this was good,’ or ‘No, that was a bad thing,’ or ‘Hey, we got unlucky here,’ it gives you more perspective and experience to learn from,” Zanik said. “So I’m excited about it.”

As for who makes the major decisions on how to build the roster, and which moves need to be made to fulfill the franchise’s championship dream, Ainge brings an experienced voice, but won’t have the final say.

The only person who has the final say is Smith as the Jazz owner, and that remains unchanged even with Ainge in tow.

“Ultimately, Ryan as the owner makes the final call,” Zanik said. “So if we’re all recommending [something] in basketball operations including coach — ‘Hey, I think we should do “A” or not do “A,”‘ he’s the one that’s going say yes or no. And that’s the way it’s always been.”

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