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
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