The Utah Jazz have hired Danny Ainge as their new CEO and Alternate Governor according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
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
It’s not a huge surprise. The rumors of Danny Ainge coming to Utah in some form have been going around for a while and it’s no secret that Ryan Smith and him are close.
Jazz owner Ryan Smith has had a longtime friendship with Ainge, who was a legendary player at BYU. Ainge stepped down as Celtics GM after last season, but now returns with the Jazz to oversee basketball operations and work closely with GM Justin Zanik.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 15, 2021
So how does this all work for the Jazz? Ainge’s title is CEO and Alternate Governor. I’m sure there are nuances, but it appears Ainge will be filling the role that Dennis Lindsey left behind and Justin Zanik will stay in his role as GM. Here is part of the statement from the Jazz on the hire:
“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,” said Ryan Smith, owner of the Utah Jazz and SEG. “We believe in adding the best talent to all facets of our organization and are lucky to have Danny’s acumen and experience. The Jazz are in great hands with the incredible leadership of General Manager Justin Zanik and Head Coach Quin Snyder. We couldn’t be more excited to bring Danny on board to work alongside Justin, Quin and me. Danny will help make our organization stronger in pursuit of our collective goal—winning an NBA title.”
There’s a few interesting points to consider at the timing of this. According to Woj’s story, Smith and Ainge hashed out the details of the hire during a recent golf trip to the Bahamas. (Sidenote: It’s good to be Ryan Smith)
Smith invited Ainge to join him on a recent trip to the Bahamas for Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge golf tournament, where Smith was caddying for the PGA Tour’s Tony Finau. Smith pitched Ainge on the role with the Jazz during the trip, and they came to an agreement before returning to Utah.
Smith might have been pushing hard for this because of rumors that Ainge might be considered for the opening in Portland.
It’s also interesting that this hire comes on the day that certain players are now trade eligible. This also assures the Jazz have Ainge in place before the trade deadline on February 10th. And if there’s one thing we know, Ainge is willing to make shrewd moves that aren’t always fun to make but are the right move for title chances.
My take on this is it’s a good move for the Jazz overall. You can’t help but wonder how Justin Zanik feels about this, though. In his first year with the team he’s done a solid job. We’ll see if Zanik stays long term, and is happy with his role, or he moves on. As far as Quin Snyder, who was hired by Dennis Lindsey, it will be interesting to see how that relationship evolves. It’s no rumor that Snyder and Lindsey butted heads and was a big part of Lindsey being demoted to a consultant role. Snyder now has completely new ownership and head of management than what he had when he was hired. Snyder has done a good job as the Jazz’s head coach and it will fascinating to see if playstyle adjusts with the new CEO in place. I’ll also be watching that relationship with Ainge, he’s going to want to make an imprint on the team. My guess is we’ll see that affect happen at the trade deadline with a rotation player. This quote from the Woj story is really interesting.
“Rarely do you get an opportunity to come into a franchise that is this close to being a special team,”
So Ainge considers the Jazz close to special, he doesn’t think they already are. It goes on to say:
“We have great people with Quin and Justin and obviously the ownership group also,” Ainge said. “Ultimately, everything will always come down to Ryan as the owner to make tough decisions, but I think I can just help by adding information to the process of making those tough decisions as an organization.”
Ainge says that he’s going to help them make “tough decisions.”
As Bolerjack always says, “Buckle up, Jazz fans!”