WALTHAM, Mass. — When the Celtics announced via news release on Wednesday that they had hired Brad Stevens as their head coach, half the basketball-watching world was stunned by the hire. The other half was more stunned the Celtics were able to keep such press-stopping news a secret.
In the era of Twitter, TMZ and the 24-hour news cycle, companies rarely control their own message anymore. NBA teams struggle to break their own news before someone like Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski beats them to it. So it was a shock when an unassuming email from the Celtics popped up in the inboxes of various reporters at 5:40 p.m. ET Wednesday announcing the hiring of Stevens as the 17th head coach in franchise history.
It turns out there was very strategic reasoning behind the Celtics’ secrecy, which president of basketball operations Danny Ainge explained Friday after Stevens’ introductory news conference.
“First of all, I never leak stories, as you guys all know,” Ainge said. “You try to get me to leak stories, but you’ve got to find some other source is you want a story leaked. This was very tight-lipped. I was very careful who I shared any information with because of the sensitivity to Brad.”
Above all, Ainge said, he feared that premature attention for the move might spook Stevens into remaining at Butler, the former employer to which he remains fiercely loyal. If news of Stevens’ interview with an NBA team leaked out and he stayed, it could forever damage his reputation with his current players and colleagues, not to mention future recruits and their families. So even after a long interview that included Ainge, co-owners Steve Pagliuca and Wyc Grousbeck, assistant general manager Mike Zarren, Stevens and his wife, Tracy, Ainge kept all information extremely close to the vest.
Possibly contributing to Ainge’s caution, too, was the fact that just last week he was burned by persistent leaks that doomed a potential trade to send Kevin Garnett to the Clippers in a transaction the league deemed was connected with the two teams’ negotiations over Doc Rivers.
“If this had gotten out, I think it very easily could have blown the situation,” Ainge said. “I think that’s the case in a lot of things. It’s been the case with trades, coaches, signings, everything that goes on in our business. It’s bad that it gets leaked out and that’s why I don’t do that. I try to protect information, protect people and their lives and their families from ever getting out.”
Ainge had already seen one potential deal get blown up because it made its way into the public eye a little too soon. Not wanting to see a repeat incident, he and the Celtics set out to beat the news cycle. They succeeded.