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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended December 15, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 12Dec00

By Kent Larsen

One Year Later, Ainge Has No Regrets

PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- A year after he stepped down as coach of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, Basketball star Danny Ainge says he has no regrets. Ainge spends his time just as he said he would a year ago -- on his family and Church. The results have been good, he says, and while he maintains some connections with sports, don't look for him to go back.

Ainge surprised the NBA and the sports world with his announcement, and the media and fans speculated wildly about the "true" reason for his departure. Some said he was forced out by the team or undermined by an assistant. Others claimed he had a child in drug rehab or was having an affair. One fan even claimed he had a secret second family in Utah! But Ainge maintained that he simply wanted to be more in touch with his family.

Coaching demands had weighed heavily on him, Ainge claims, to the point that he had lost touch with his family. The job had become an obsession, leading him to spend every waking hour thinking about the team. He found himself diagraming plays on napkins when he went to the movies. "I'd leave the theater not even knowing what the movie was about," he said. "And when I was in church, I'd hear the lesson, and instead of asking myself how I could apply that principle to my kids, I was wondering how I could apply it to those 12 players. I'd read self-help books and think, 'This is awesome stuff,' but I'd apply it to my players. I realized I ought to be applying it to my kids at home, and that just killed me. I had a hard time balancing it all."

Then, Ainge had a conversation with his son, Tanner. "He asked us if anybody thought he had become distant," Tanner said. "I told him, yeah, I think so. At the time, it seemed like he wasn't really part of the family. I can tell you that coaching took a lot more out of him than playing did. He was so into it, his brain was fried."

Now Ainge's life is completely different. He's there for the big events, like his daughter's wedding and his son's final high school basketball game. But he is also there for the smaller things. He's become a soccer Dad, has coached little league teams and has even taken dance classes with his wife and kids. "He actually knows who the kids' teachers are and what grades they're getting," says his wife, Michelle.

Ainge is also spending time working with his 5-year-old son, Crew, who both parents claim is a difficult child. "He just goes crazy emotionally . . . kind of like some of the players I coached."

And he is also involved at Church. The bishop in his ward noticed the changes in his life, and has now called him to be in the bishopric, where he says he spends about 20 hours a week. "When they called me, I thought, 'Holy cow, I'm supposed to be spending more time with my family,' " Ainge said. "But it's different. It's only 20 hours a week, and it's good for me and my family because they see me serving."

Still, Ainge hasn't completely lost his ties to sports and to the NBA. He is writing a chapter for a book on Mormon athletes and is a sports analyst for Turner Sports. He will also soon begin hosting a two-hour sports talk show on Wednesday evenings. And he can't quite give up expressing his opinions about what the Suns should be doing, "The guy still drives me crazy, calling me all the time," said Sun's Chairman Jerry Colangelo.

But, its not enough for him to want to go back, "It's been a dramatic change, and I don't regret it at all."


Ainge heeds new calling
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 10Dec00 S2
By Bob Young: The Arizona Republic
Traded coaching for family, faith


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