ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that Danny Ainge has returned to the NBA, this time as an alternate governor and CEO of Jazz basketball operations after his reportedly longtime friend Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith hired him Wednesday afternoon. Ainge first rose to fame in Salt Lake City where he was an All-American guard at BYU.
The Utah Jazz are hiring Danny Ainge as alternate governor and CEO, sources tell ESPN. Ainge will oversee basketball and Justin Zanik will remain GM.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 15, 2021
Smith hired Ainge after he stepped down as the Celtics’ president of basketball operations after last season. Ainge was the Celtics’ top basketball executive and helped build the first Big 3 of the modern NBA when he acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to team up with Paul Pierce. Those additions helped the Celtics win a title in 2008 and led to him winning Executive of the Year the same year.
As CEO, he will be in charge of basketball operations for the Jazz and will be working closely with Utah general manager Justin Zanik.
“We have big aspirations for Smith Entertainment Group and the Utah Jazz. 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 statement. “We believe in adding the best talent to all facets of our organization and are lucky to have Danny’s acumen and experience.”
Ainge was reportedly a candidate for an executive position with Trail Blazers recently. Ainge replaces Dennis Lindsey, who helped build the Jazz into a championship contender after drafting Rudy Gobert, and Donovan Mitchell, who have morphed into All-Stars. Last summer, Lindsey moved into a consultant role after serving as executive vice president of basketball operations for nine seasons.
“Rarely do you get an opportunity to come into a franchise that is this close to being a special team. It’s a very unique opportunity.” Ainge told Tim McMahon of ESPN.