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Danny Ainge, Peter Chiarelli and an appreciation of bold decision-making

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  July 8, 2013 09:56 PM

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Danny Ainge could have have made a logical but less-inspiring choice than Brad Stevens as the successor to Doc Rivers on the Celtics bench. And we all would have understood.

Peter Chiarelli could have held on to Tyler Seguin one more season, hoping the on- and off-ice maturity that eluded him at age 21 came around at 22. And we all would have understood.

The most well-worn path is on the easiest route. Sometimes that is even the right way to go.

But in the aftermath of another zany week of bold headlines in Boston sports, it occurs to me that a tap of the stick and a tip of the cap are due Ainge and Chiarelli for the boldness in which they put together their respective teams and go about their professional business.

That was the common thread between the past week's two blockbuster Boston sports stories that didn't involve further revelations about the apparently sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies of a gifted former Patriots tight end.

The general managers of Boston's two winter (but essentially year-round) teams made unexpected decisions that could impact the franchises for years. And neither Ainge nor Chiarelli made the easiest decision, the obvious decision, or the decision that would cause the least sports-radio blowback.

They simply did what they believed was best, public sentiment and expectations be damned. And that's exactly how you should want a general manager to operate the team for which you root.

Be daring, be – there's that word again – bold, make a decision after gathering as much information as possible, and trust the courage of your convictions above all else.

Of the two decisions, the Seguin deal was much higher-risk. He's such a talented kid, and it was lost in his lone-goal playoff performance and the tales and accompanying gifs of his off-ice exploits that he already has had legitimate success in the NHL.

He was the Bruins' leader in goals and points two years ago (29 and 67, respectively), and finished second in goals this year (16) during the abbreviated season. He's already fulfilled some of the promise.

Seguin was devastated in the locker room after the Bruins lost Game 6 of the Cup Final – yes, he cared deeply, despite requiring a lecture or two about professionalism from the respected likes of Shawn Thornton along the way. That disappointment coupled with the potential wake-up call that comes from this trade may spur him to bigger things in Dallas.

(Now, if he could just elude those relentless Twitter "hackers" once and for all.)

Chiarelli knows all of this, and he knows so much more regarding why he traded Seguin. Maybe that intel made it easier for him to send him on his way, and it's not as if he brought an unappealing package of players in return. There isn't a doubt in my mind that Loui Eriksson will be a fan-favorite by, oh, the third home game of the season.

Still, trading a player of Seguin's vast promise takes guts. The fear of having the wrong end of a Jeff Bagwell/Larry Andersen deal attached to your name surely has caused general managers across all sports to shrivel up and go gun-shy on deals they should have made.

Ainge's decision to hire Stevens, the extraordinarily successful and innovative Butler basketball mastermind, wasn't so daring as it was inspired.

I've been kicking myself for not recognizing upon Doc's departure and the advent of the coaching search that Stevens might be on Ainge's radar – his commitment to advanced metrics would instantly make him a kindred spirit with Ainge, who will consider every possible way to gain an advantage. Then again, the Celtics pulled it off in such a stealth way that not even Adrian Wojnarowski apparently had a sniff that it might happen, and he doesn't miss much.

aingefinn78.JPG[Brief cardboard interlude: Is that Danny Ainge with more hair on his upper lip than Gus Williams has atop his head? It is Danny Ainge with more hair on his upper lip than Gus Williams has atop his head. Also: A David Thompson cameo -- that's him on the left -- which is always a good thing.]

Hiring Stevens and committing to him for six years isn't so much daring as it is plain smart. But what it suggests – that they're going full rebuild and he's going to be coaching incoming players with whom he's familiar with from college rather than established NBA veterans – is fascinating.

Make no mistake: There will be no basketball purgatory for the Celtics the next few years, no floating around the edge of the playoffs and the back-end of the lottery, no Washington Wizards-style irrelevance. They're going all-in to begin again, and once Rajon Rondo and a few other veterans are traded – and that's when, not if – it's going to feel a lot like 1996-97 around here, with Avery Bradley playing the role of David Wesley, Jared Sullinger as Rick Fox, and Jeff Green as Antoine Walker.

The difference is that the coach who is here for the demolition will reap the benefits of the rebuild.

I'll say it again, with the knowledge that reminders will be necessary along the way: The Stevens hiring is nothing short of brilliant, even with the knowledge that those lean years in the win column are immediately ahead.

Meanwhile, there's that other question that will hang in the air at TD Garden early in the new season: Will the Bruins someday lament the Seguin deal?

Me, I don't believe so. Some of you do, and I certainly understand. Hey, I remember that playoff game against the Lightning way back when and the electricity of promise briefly fulfilled.

But no matter how this week's transactions ultimately play out in the long-term, the process of how Danny Ainge and Peter Chiarelli came to make them is worthy of applause.

Sure, they can afford to be less cautious. Both already have the cachet of champions.

But this isn't about what they've done, but what they're doing.

And such boldness when traveling that easier path could have been justified bodes so well for the future of both franchises.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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