Danny Ainge is the only person in history to be named a Parade High School All-American in football, baseball and basketball.
Ainge has gotten a base hit at Yankee Stadium and hit a three-pointer at Boston Garden. A four-time All-WAC performer at Brigham Young, Ainge rose from a sick bed [flu] to score 37 points and eliminate UCLA from the 1981 NCAA tournament. In BYU’s next game, he drove the length of the floor for a layup at the buzzer to knock off Notre Dame. Less than three weeks later, he was starting at third base for the Toronto Blue Jays on Opening Day.
When Ainge was on the team you were rooting for, you loved him. If he was the opponent, you despised the man. A brash, hard-nosed player who infuriated opponents, Ainge played three years of major league baseball and then spent 14 seasons in the NBA.
Winner of the 1981 John Wooden Award as the best player in college basketball, Ainge helped the Boston Celtics to two world championships as a player in the mid-1980s. Two decades later, he returned to Boston as general manager and was the architect of the Celtics team that won the 2008 NBA title – the 17th in franchise history.
Born in Eugene, Oregon, on St. Patrick’s Day 1959, Daniel Ray Ainge is from an athletic family. His father, Don, was all-state in three sports and his mother, Kay, was an excellent gymnast. At North High School in Eugene, Ainge was a highly recruited wide receiver. Former USC coach John Robinson once said Ainge could play both wideout and safety for his team but, at 170 pounds, Ainge considered himself too light for big-time football and declined scholarship offers in order to concentrate on basketball and baseball.
A 6’5” guard, Ainge led the Scotties to back-to-back state basketball titles in 1976 and 1977. After hitting .525 as a senior, Ainge was taken in the 15th round of the 1977 amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays as a shortstop. Torn between basketball and baseball, Ainge decided to pursue both. He accepted a basketball scholarship to BYU and played baseball during college summers.
After one year of seasoning with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, Danny Ainge made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in May 1979. In only his 11th game in The Show, the 20-year-old Ainge became the youngest player in Jays history to hit a home run — a record that stands more than 40 years later. Playing both infield and outfield, the versatile right-hander spent three summers with Toronto. In 211 major league games, Ainge batted .220, collected 146 hits, and stole a dozen bases.
Ainge returned to BYU to resume classes each fall. A four-year starter, he scored in double figures in a then-NCAA record 112 straight games — and averaged nearly 21 points per contest. After leading the Cougars to the Sweet 16 at the 1981 NCAA tournament, he was named NABC Player of the Year.
Despite being under contract with the Blue Jays, the Boston Celtics selected Ainge with the 31st overall pick of the 1981 NBA draft. Following a contentious legal battle, Boston obtained his rights, and Ainge made his Celtics debut in December 1981. He helped the Celts reach four straight NBA Finals – winning in 1984 and 1986.
Midway through his eighth season in Boston, Ainge was traded to Sacramento. He was dealt to Portland in 1990, and guided the Trail Blazers to the 1992 NBA Finals. In Game 2, Ainge scored a Finals-record nine points in overtime to tie the series at 1-1, but Portland succumbed to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in six games.
Ainge signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free agent for the 1992-93 season. In his first season in the desert, he helped the Suns to their second Finals in franchise history [and the sixth and final championship series appearance of Ainge’s career]. The Suns’ opponent was the Bulls, who won their third straight NBA championship – again in six games.
In 1994, the 35-year-old Ainge became the second player in NBA history to hit 900 three-point shots in a career. He retired as a player following the 1994-95 season, having averaged 11.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and four assists in 1,042 NBA games.
When his playing days were over, Danny Ainge remained in Phoenix, becoming the ninth coach in Suns history in 1996. Twenty games into his third season, the devout Mormon and father of six resigned to spend more time with his family. He returned to the Celtics in 2003, and was named 2008 NBA Executive of the Year after Boston won the title.
Mr. Ainge was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. He remains actively involved in basketball and currently serves as the Celts’ president of basketball operations.