Danny Ainge Joins Utah Jazz Front Office as Acting Governor, CEO

Utah Jazz hired Danny Ainge to oversee basketball operations, appointing him on Wednesday as acting governor and CEO of Jazz Basketball and the Smith Entertainment Group.

Ainge will work closely with Jazz General Manager Justin Zanik, who runs the team’s day-to-day operations, and an ownership group that includes new owner Ryan Smith and former NBA star Dwyane Wade.

“You rarely get the opportunity to step into a franchise that comes this close to being a special team,” Ainge told ESPN, referring to the success of Jazz, who had the best NBA record last season. and is currently third in the West. Ranking the conference at 19-7. “This is a very unique opportunity for all of these reasons.”

Ainge stepped down as president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics in June and is now returning to the NBA with Smith, his longtime friend and alumnus of Brigham Young University. Ainge, a college basketball All-American at BYU, is a popular figure in Salt Lake City.

Smith invited Ainge to join him on a recent trip to the Bahamas for the Tiger Woods Hero World Challenge golf tournament, where Smith was Tony Finau’s PGA Tour caddy. Smith offered Ainge the role with the Jazz during the trip, and they came to an agreement before returning to Utah.

“If you’ve got DA sitting 20 minutes away in Utah, you put it to work, don’t you? Smith told ESPN. “Everyone has always asked, ‘Is this the plan? “Well, that definitely wasn’t Danny’s plan until last week.”

Ainge spent 18 years as the Celtics’ top basketball executive, winning the 2008 NBA title and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017, 2018 and 2020. Ainge was the NBA Officer of the Year in 2008.

Ainge said he had to spend the last six months “playing a lot of golf, visiting family and chilling out” before considering a return to the NBA.

“I’ve never been ready to talk about this before, but Ryan and I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time together,” said Ainge. “We made it out and we were both excited about the opportunity. I think it was the moment more than anything.”

Ainge’s hiring comes in the wake of former executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey, who became a consultant this summer after making the franchise a contender for the Western Conference championship. Lindsey drafted All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell and hired coach Quin Snyder.

“We are in a position of strength to move into another position of strength,” Smith said. “We can make this role a little different than some in the past. With everything Quin does with the team, it’s actually a really good place. I’m also somewhat active with the team. , I would say, as are all modern property groups. I think it gives Danny a unique opportunity to come in and help out. I think Danny is at a point in his career where he just wants to uplift people. “

Jazz President Jim Olson will continue to lead the team’s business operations. Ainge said the franchise’s basketball decisions will be “a collaborative effort.”

“We have great people with Quin and Justin and obviously the owner group as well,” said Ainge. “At the end of the day, it will always be up to Ryan as the owner to make the tough decisions, but I think I can just help by adding information to the process of making those tough decisions as an organization.”

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