Danny Ainge’s Accountability Problem
Posted by Hayes Davenport on May 22, 2011
I had knee surgery yesterday and I’m a little hopped up on goofballs, so this is probably a great time to write how disappointed I’ve been in Danny Ainge lately. Not Danny Ainge, the GM. Danny Ainge, the person.
Ainge, like all basketball GMs and Dwyane Wade, is responsible for assembling professional basketball rosters. Therefore, it stands to reason that he should accept some meager share of the blame when his roster doesn’t perform up to expectations. His title is President of Basketball Operations, after all. At the very least, if he’s not going to take on any responsibility himself, he certainly shouldn’t be dispensing any to anyone else.
But that’s exactly what he’s been doing, sadly. In making the media rounds after Game 5, Ainge explicitly assigned blame for the season’s end to his players, and nobly declined to leave any for himself, the person who brought those players together.
Articles like these are riddled with quotes about how Ainge believes the Celtics lost because the players didn’t play as well as they could have. His tone, throughout, is that of a disappointed father whose son didn’t practice enough for his piano recital and missed out on a piano scholarship to a good college. It’s pretty unpleasant, actually, from someone in a position of power and responsibility like Ainge. The buck is supposed to stop with him, but Ainge is snowblowing bucks out of his office and leaving his players to deal with them.
Here’s perhaps the exemplar quote: Ainge’s response when asked if he had any explanations for the Celtics’ early exit.
“I won’t share those with you, because that would be talking about some of my players that didn’t play as well as they were capable of playing,” said Ainge.
That’s sharing plenty, Daniel. What you’re making clear, here, is that you believe player performance doesn’t reflect on you. All you do is sign the players, who you presume to be awesome, and then when they’re not as awesome as you thought they would be, it’s their fault. That is pretty slimy, even if it is the result of professional insecurity, which it probably is.
After the jump, some sub-categories of Danny faulting his players for his own mistakes.
A) Spending the mid-level exception on a guy who’s primary schtick is getting injured a lot, then signing the league’s oldest player, then using their inevitable injuries as an excuse.
“In all honesty, the injury bug bit us pretty hard,” Ainge said. “Now that’s not an excuse. (It is, actually). But we lost key role players that put added pressure on our starters to play more minutes.”
B) Trading one of the starters and a clubhouse favorite, then claiming the subsequent decline in team chemistry had absolutely nothing to do with that.
“I think that’s a bunch of garbage,” Ainge retorted. “Whether chemistry went awry or not, that might be true, but I don’t think it’s because we traded Perk.”
C) Trading for an overrated player, then blaming the circumstances the player was brought into (by Ainge) for the player’s poor performance.
“It was the byproduct of a new position, a new team, a new coach, all of those things,” Ainge said.
D) Obliviously chastising your players for a late-season fade that coincided very closely with a massive roster shakeup caused by, um, you.
“I’m disappointed,” said Ainge. “I’m disappointed in how we played the last 20 games of the regular season. I thought we should have had home-court advantage through the playoffs.
Danny, here’s a quote I wrote for you. It’s for interviews when people ask you any question about this season.
“We took some risks at the end of the season,” said Ainge. “I felt we needed to make some changes if we were going to compete in the playoffs, but they didn’t all work out as we’d hoped.”
See? It’s vague. It’s polite. It conveys a mild sense of contrition while leaving some responsibility to pure chance. It uses the first-person plural, implying that you’re not the only person involved in making personnel decisions, which is hopefully true. And it doesn’t accuse your roster of letting you down. Isn’t that a great quote? Maybe say it while shrugging a tiny bit.
But definitely stop doing what you’re doing.