For as long as I’ve followed basketball (and that’s a very long time), the NBA’s Boston Celtics have, at times, been very good and occasionally lucky. Many a fan of the Kelly green and white Celtics will swear that a lucky leprechaun had been living at the original Boston Garden and, more recently, at the newer digs of the TD Garden. Magical moments seemed to occur at the Garden just in the nick of time. From 1965’s “Havlicek stole the ball” to the 1986 legendary last-minute defensive gem by Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics’ home court legend of the lucky leprechaun remains fully intact even today.
Legendary coach and General Manager, Red Auerbach, did his best to advance the leprechaun theory while the C’s were dominating the NBA during much of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The cigar-chomping Auerbach knew that the Celtics’ had their share of secret weapons – even his own brother. Zang Auerbach was credited with creating the famous Celtics’ leprechaun logo in the 1960’s and named him “Lucky the Leprechaun”. During the Auerbach era, Boston’s basketball success certainly was more “good” than lucky, but it never hurt to have a little extra mojo on your side.
Red Auerbach’s 33-year run as General Manager ended in 1984. After that, the Celtics went into a bit of a slump as the next two General Managers (Jan Volk and Chris Wallace) were unable to restore the magic to the Boston Garden.
Enter Danny Ainge in 2007. The former Boston Celtics’ guard had been drafted by Red Auerbach in 1981 and played on two Celtics’ NBA championship teams in 1984 and 1986. The Celtics’ championship run, though, soon ended. After retiring from the league as a player, Danny Ainge was hired in 2007 to become the Celtic’s new General Manager.
Ainge took over as GM as the Celtics finished the 2006-2007 season with a 24-58 record (2nd worst in team history) and promptly made two trades to add Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a team featuring Paul Pierce. In just one year, the 2007-2008 new “Big Three” Celtics posted an NBA-best record of 66-16 and won their first championship banner for Boston since Ainge’s playing days in 1986. For his role, Ainge was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year.
Since 2008, the Boston Celtics have remained competitive in the NBA Eastern Conference, but teams featuring LeBron James in Cleveland and Miami have grabbed the spotlight. Ainge then successfully traded the aging “Big Three” stars to receive a number of first round draft picks which have been used to secure a new core of players. He also hired a gifted young college basketball coach from Butler University named Brad Stevens.
Under Stevens, the Celtics have moved up the Eastern Conference standings the past three years to reach first place this season and ultimately lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James in the NBA Eastern finals.
On July 4th, the Celtics opened their wallet to “show the green” to Utah Jazz’ high-scoring free agent forward, Gordon Hayward. Hayward played college basketball at Butler University and under the coaching of, you guessed it, Brad Stevens.
With the latest revival of the Boston Celtics, it is possible that a new lucky leprechaun may be living at the Garden again. For the time being, many Celtics’ fans believe that Danny Ainge has that magic touch.
If adding Gordon Hayward to the starting line-up helps the Celtics reach the NBA Finals and, eventually, bring another championship banner back to Boston, then perhaps Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ lucky leprechaun are, at the least, very close friends.