He is still a few days away from college graduation, but Austin Ainge has already landed a job any aspiring coach would envy. He is a full-fledge assistant coach at a Division I basketball program.
He knows what everyone is saying that he got the job because his dad is Danny Ainge.
And the point is?
Sure, it helps when your dad is a former NBA player, coach and now executive director of the Boston Celtics. So what's he supposed to do, gouge out his eyes?
"I don't know too many people who get jobs without connections," said Ainge, who is already working alongside new SUU coach Roger Reid. "That's how it works. I just have to do the best job I can, and hopefully we'll win enough games that people will see that I can contribute."
Just to clear things up, the story goes like this: Reid was a BYU assistant coach when Danny Ainge was in college. Reid was later hired by the elder Ainge as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns. Now Reid is returning the favor.
Favoritism aside, Austin Ainge seems a good coaching prospect.
He is articulate, humble and has a mentor's eye for the game. He was BYU's team leader all last season, despite only finishing fifth in scoring.
Predictably, he led the team in assists by a wide margin. His job wasn't so much to score as to direct.
Yet even when he was benched, he readily conceded the coach knew best.
Even as a freshman, he sounded remarkably mature and coach-like although he didn't know that would be his future.
"I haven't always wanted to be a coach; I've changed my major a bunch of times at BYU, trying to figure things out. I just wasn't ready to give up the game, and so I just wanted to stay in it. Coaching is the only thing I could think of doing for 40 years and still be living in it."
His original plan was to go to law school.
"My wife still complains that I did some false advertising; she thought she was marrying a lawyer," he said.
Ainge's break came about a month ago, when Reid was hired as SUU's new coach. Though he was at the NCAA tournament in Lexington, Ky., Ainge phoned Reid and told him he was interested in coaching. But the seeds were planted two years earlier when, at a golf outing, he told Reid the same thing.
"At first he told me I was crazy to go into coaching. The next thing he said was to make sure and call him when I was done (with school), because he'd have a spot for me," said Ainge.
The move didn't exactly shock the basketball world, but it did make some people jealous. Recently back from a scouting trip to Las Vegas, Ainge allowed, "I can't tell you how many people couldn't believe I got a full-time assistant's job right off the bat. Most said they had not seen that happen before."
Most people didn't grow up the son of the Phoenix Suns' coach.
Yet to say bloodlines are the sole reason he got the job would be selling Ainge short. For starters, he knows the challenges of the job, having followed his dad around since he was a kid. His name alone should help recruiting. He is also adept with the media something even longtime coaches struggle to figure out.
"I don't see why it's such a mystery," said Ainge. "I just try to answer the questions as honestly as I can without divulging privileged information or sacrificing the trust of my teammates."Comment on this story
Likewise, he has an ability to laugh at himself another trait that can sometimes be in short supply among coaches. Asked what level he would like to coach, he says college, because "there's a big difference between 34 games and 82 games."
He added, "And in college you have a lot of say over personnel issues, hiring your own staff, choosing the players you want. You have more control (than in the NBA). Look at the Celtics. My dad stuck Doc Rivers with a bunch of rookies."If the coaching doesn't work out, there's always stand-up comedy.