Since playing high school hoops in Gilbert, Ariz., Austin Ainge's basketball career has taken him from Provo (college player at BYU), to Cedar City (Southern Utah University assistant), to Portland, Maine, (head coach of the D-League’s Red Claws), and to Boston (Celtics’ director of player personnel since 2011). Deseret News Utah Jazz beat writer Jody Genessy caught up with the former Cougar sharpshooter in Florida last week during the Orlando Pro Summer League.
Q: You’ve gone from coaching to an NBA front office in your six-year career. Which side do you prefer?
Ainge: I work in the front office helping assemble the roster — drafts, trades, free agency, those types of things. There’s plusses and minuses to both, and I would do either. I just love basketball. I’m happy and grateful to have a job involved in the business.
Q: What is it like working with your dad, Celtics president Danny Ainge?
Ainge: He’s great. He gives his employees a lot of freedom. He listens to everybody — from the interns from the bottom to the top. It makes it fun to work for him because you know your opinion will be heard, and we’ve had some success so that’s always been fun.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in Boston?
Ainge: It’s just a whole new roster, a new coaching staff, and so it will be getting the right pieces, making sure they fit and getting everyone on the same page. But we feel like we have at least the building blocks of that and the framework for it. We’re really excited for coach (Brad) Stevens and a lot of the new players we’re bringing in.
Q: What is your ultimate career goal — head coach, general manager, team president?
Ainge: I don’t know. I just am enjoying being employed in a game I love. I’ll do anything that my team needs me to do. I just love the game. Whether it’s front office or scouting or coaching, I’m happy to do any of them.
Q: How closely have you remained tied to BYU since your college career ended in 2007? Any pressure to bring ex-Cougars to the C’s?
Ainge: My little brother (Cooper) was on the (BYU) team this year as a redshirt, and those guys are my friends. Obviously, I played for coach (Dave) Rose and Terry (Nashif, assistant coach) was a teammate of mine. I know the staff and I talk with them regularly.
We don’t really feel any of that (pressure to bring BYU guys in). Certainly the Boston media never says a word about that. But I will say that I always keep a close eye on those guys, and I’m sure rooting for Jimmer (Fredette in Sacramento) and for Brandon Davies to make the Clippers. I’m really pulling for them.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from your BYU experience?
Ainge: The NCAA tournaments were nice. It’s always fun beating Utah on your home court to win the conference championship and cut down the nets (2007). I’ll say, I thought the number-retiring games were fun — when they retired my dad’s number (22) and also Kresimir Cosic’s number (11). I thought those were cool games because they were sellouts and the crowd was kind of special.
I was kind of the kid I really enjoyed the extremely hostile crowds on the road. As great as it is to have the Marriott Center cheer for you — because they’re such amazing fans — I kind of got a little extra adrenaline from quieting the road crowd.
Q: Didn’t they use to mockingly call you “Danny” away from Provo?
Ainge: (Smiles) Even when I was a redshirt in the shirt and tie on the end of the bench, I got razzed more than any of the other players, but it’s all good fun.