Danny Ainge does things unconventionally -- and they often work out.
That's always fun.
But how does the Celtics' front office really work? It's hard to say, because it's a small team, and generally a tight-lipped one. (It's tough to find more a more politic panelist at MIT Sloan than the Celtics' assistant GM Mike Zarren.)
Writing for SBNation, Paul Flannery found a way into Boston's thinking, with a fantastic profile of Ryan McDonough, 33-year-old Boston assistant GM. McDonough's not exactly a stat geek, nor is he simply a scout. He's all that and more.
One of Boston's biggest accomplishments was finding a player as good as Avery Bradley in the middle of the first round -- but that took a lot more than scouting. It was also a case of relationship building, teaching and perseverance. Flannery writes:
The Celtics sent Bradley to their D-League affiliate in Maine where Austin Ainge was coaching. McDonough went with him after consulting with Doc Rivers and the coaching staff.
"(McDonough) knows the game and what he does, I think more than a lot of guys, he actually listens," says Rivers. "He checked with us. I gave him specific things. He went to our coaches. A lot of guys won’t do that. They have their own game plan for guys. I think that helped Avery in a big way."
After games, McDonough and Austin Ainge would sit down with Bradley and watch video of all his plays.
McDonough monitored his ankle treatment and his workouts.
"He’s a pretty bright kid," McDonough says. "Very observant. He’s very receptive, a quick learner. It’s rewarding when you work with somebody and see him come so quickly so fast, to now where in my estimation he’s the best perimeter defender in the league, a year after he was down in the D-League."
Now ensconced as an NBA starter, Bradley smiles at the memory.
"He was the one who was always there," Bradley says. "He would literally make notes of things that I need to work on. He helped me out so much. He took it seriously and I appreciate him for that. He’s been watching me play since I was 17 years old, which is cool."
You see that? He built a bridge between the NBA head coach, the D-League coaching staff, the medical staff and the player. It's not luck Bradley mastered the skills the Celtics could most use.
McDonough fits the profile of some of the best minds in NBA front offices: He didn't get his job by being a big-name player or a retired coach. In the mold of Sam Presti, Dave Griffin, Rob Hennigan and many others, he made his mark by sneaking in the side door (in this case by approaching Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck in a sports bar) and working incredibly hard, making contributions with undeniable value.