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Daniel Ray "Danny" Ainge (born March 17, 1959 in Eugene, Oregonmarker) is an American retired professional basketball and baseball player who is currently the President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics of the NBA. He played in the NBA for the Celtics, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, and Phoenix Suns, and also in Major League Baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Early sports playing career

Talented in multiple sports, Ainge starred in high school on his football team and led North Eugene High Schoolmarker to back-to-back state basketball championships in 1976–77, earning all-state honors both years; he was considered one of the top prep football recruits in the state of Oregon. As a junior he was named to the 1977 Parade Magazine High School All-America team. Danny Ainge is the only person to be a high school first team All-American in football, basketball, and baseball.

Ainge played basketball at Brigham Young Universitymarker and became a household name after hitting one of the greatest shots in NCAA March Madness history against Notre Dame in 1981. His coast to coast drive with only seven seconds remaining gave the Cougars a one point win. Ainge concluded his senior year by winning the Eastman Award as well as the John R. Wooden Award - given to the best collegiate player in the nation. During his four-year career at BYU, Ainge was an All-American, a two-time First Team Academic All-American, the WAC Player of the Year and a four-time All-WAC selection.

Baseball career

Ainge was selected in baseball's 1977 amateur draft by Toronto. He made it to the major leagues with the Blue Jays in while still in college, but amassed only modest numbers for the team. Mostly a second baseman, he played third base and outfield positions as well, hitting .220 in his baseball career with 2 home runs. He is the youngest player in Toronto Blue Jays history to hit a home run at 20 years and 77 days. Ainge played on the losing end of Len Barker's 1981 perfect game, going 0-for-2.

After 3 years with the Blue Jays, Ainge decided to pursue a career in basketball and was chosen in the 1981 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, who had to buy out Ainge's contract from the Blue Jays after a legal battle.

NBA career

Not everything went well for Ainge in basketball at first. According to Larry Bird in his autobiography Drive: The Story of My Life, Ainge had a terrible first day of practice, "shooting 0-19". The coach, Bill Fitch gave Ainge a rough time, saying his batting average was better than his shooting percentage on the basketball court. But Ainge became one of the important pieces of the team that won the NBA title in 1984 and 1986, and a major contributor of the mid to late 1980s Celtics teams.

He was known as a hard-nosed player, often infuriating opponents with his combative style and brash personality. In a 1983 playoff game against Atlanta, he exchanged blows with the 7 foot 1 inch Tree Rollins and was ejected from the contest. Larry Bird gives an account about Ainge's fight with Rollins in his autobiography Drive. Bird said that Danny had called Rollins a sissy earlier which ended up in the two fighting. Bird said that after the fight was broken up, Ainge rose up off the floor laughing, stating, "That big sissy just bit me." Also, while playing for the Phoenix Suns, Ainge got into a tussle with Michael Jordan at mid court and both were given a technical foul. In a 1994 postseason game, Ainge rifled an inbounding pass at the head of Houston Rockets guard Mario Elie, striking him in the face, snapping his neck back.

In 1989, Ainge was traded to the Sacramento Kings for young center Joe Kleine, whom the Celtics saw as a possible substitute to the aging Robert Parish, and Ed Pinckney.

In 1990, Ainge was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. Being a native of Oregon, he was considered a hometown favorite by Blazers fans. He helped the Blazers reach the 1992 NBA Finals, only to succumb to the Chicago Bulls in six games. On June 5, he scored nine points in the extra period to tie an all-time NBA record for most points in an overtime during a finals game.

After the 1991–92 NBA season, Ainge became a free agent. He had stated in media interviews that he ideally wanted to stay in Portland, and would contact Blazers management before seriously entertaining offers from other teams. On July 1, 1992, however, Ainge signed a contract with the Phoenix Suns on his first day of free agency.

The Phoenix Suns were a team looking for a new identity. They inaugurated a new home (America West Arenamarker), hired a new head coach (Paul Westphal) and a new superstar (Charles Barkley). The team also redesigned their logo and uniform when they signed free agent Ainge prior to the 1992–93 NBA season, figuring that his experience would help the team during the playoffs. Ainge responded by scoring 11.8 points per game as the Suns went 62–20 that year and reached the NBA finals, where they lost to Michael Jordan's Bulls in six games.

On January 18, 1994, he became the second man ever to hit 900 three-point shots in NBA history (he made 1,002 three pointers for his career), and he scored 11,964 points for an average of 11.5 points per game, 2,768 rebounds for an average of 2.7, and 4,199 assists, an average of four per game.

Ainge retired after the 1994–1995 season. He was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Famemarker in 1999.

Post-basketball playing career

While a player with the Blue Jays, Ainge opened a national chain of hat stores which he has since sold. He has volunteered his time at a number of charitable organizations and has held a number of jobs since retiring. He became Head Coach of the Phoenix Suns in 1996. His resignation from the Suns coaching job was a sudden one; he cited a need to spend more time with his family. He was replaced by Assistant Coach Scott Skiles. In 2003 he was hired as the Executive Director of Basketball Operations for the Celtics.

Ainge has often been controversial in his role as a Celtics executive, trading popular players such as three-time All-Star Antoine Walker and having personality conflicts with head coach Jim O'Brien that led to the departure of O'Brien to the Philadelphia 76ers (a job he would also depart from a year later). However, Ainge kept the support of former head coach Red Auerbach, who was employed by the team as a "senior assistant" until his death in October 2006, and the current ownership group.

The 2006–07 Celtics finished with a 24–58 record, second-worst in the team's history. Following the season, Paul Pierce, team captain and face of the franchise, expressed frustration with the team's failures. He requested a trade to a contender if management were unable to acquire veteran talent of Pierce's caliber.

Ainge responded with two bold moves that changed the franchise's fortunes almost overnight: the 2007 trades for the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Garnett and the Seattle SuperSonics' Ray Allen immediately returned the Celtics to the ranks of the NBA's elite franchises for the first time since the early 1990s. Together with Paul Pierce, the new "Big Three" led the Celtics to the NBA's best record (66–16) during the 2007–08 NBA season. It was the most dramatic single-season improvement in league history (42 more wins than the previous year), and it earned Ainge the NBA Executive of the Year award.

The Boston Celtics played the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals, renewing the long rivalry between the two teams. Boston won in six games. Danny Ainge held the trophy for the first time since winning the elusive and iconic piece of Boston's cherished history in 1986. In October 2008, after the Celtics' championship season, he was promoted to President of Basketball Operations.

In popular culture

In an early 1990s episode of Married... with Children, light mockery was made at Ainge's expense: At a fictional All-Star basketball game attended by the Bundy family, the public announcer said Ladies and Gentleman, Here are your NBA All Stars and Danny Ainge!. Clyde Drexler also laments when watching Peggy shooting a free throw that "if we had her instead of Ainge, we would have won the championship".Danny Ainge is also discussed during the 1999 movie Mumford, where several of the characters are very impressed by him being both a professional basketball and baseball player, and one names her dog after him. Ainge also had a cameo appearance in the movie The Singles Ward. Ainge also makes an appearance in 1996 film Space Jam.

Personal life

Ainge and his wife, Michelle, currently make Wellesley, Massachusettsmarker their home; they have six children. His son, Austin Ainge, is the current Head Coach of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA's Development League and like his father, played basketball at BYUmarker. He was an Honorable Mention at the All-Mountain West Conference during the 2004–05 and the 2006–07 seasons as a sophomore and a senior. Austin was an assistant men's basketball coach at Southern Utah Universitymarker in the 2007 season, alongside Roger Reid. Ainge's nephew, Erik Ainge, was the starting quarterback on the football team at the University of Tennesseemarker and was selected by the New York Jets in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Another nephew, Landon Ainge, was a back-up point guard on Lake Oswego High Schoolmarker's Oregon state championship basketball team alongside 2007 Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award winner, UCLAmarker standout and future NBA player Kevin Love. A third nephew, Ryan Toolson, was a stand-out guard at Utah Valley Universitymarker, where he was named last season's NCAA Division I Independent Player of the Year after averaging eighth in the nation in points per game with 23.4. Toolson is now signed to play basketball overseas in Turkeymarker. Ainge and his family are active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Danny Ainge awoke sick on April 15th 2009 and missed a Boston Celtics game. It was discovered later he had suffered a mild heart attack.



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