Former BYU star Danny Ainge played in the NBA for 14 years, coached the Phoenix Suns for three seasons before becoming the president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, winning the NBA championship in 2008. Last week Travis Hansen caught up with Ainge.
Q: Who had the biggest influence on your career?
A: I would say that my high school coach Barney Holland, my college coach Frank Arnold and my BYU assistant coach Roger Reid.
I have always felt that I was very fortunate to be taught by such great coaches early in life. I felt like I was very prepared when I entered the NBA because I knew the fundamentals. Coach Holland was a legendary high school coach in Oregon. I had two older brothers that played for him and I always hung around them so I ended up actually being coached by coach Holland for six or seven years. I feel as though he was as good a coach that I have ever had or been around my entire life.
And then at BYU, Frank gave me a lot of freedom to play. I loved his offensive system and he gave me a lot of confidence. And Roger Reid really pushed me to work hard. I always thought that I was a hard worker but Roger pushed me to levels that I never thought that I could reach.
Q: Advice to young athletes?
A: Find joy in the game. I see so many kids with too much stress and I find myself wishing they could find the joy in the game. I think it is really important to get your life in order, with as few distractions as possible. Whether that is schoolwork, friends or whatever may be pulling you down from playing that game you love. You need a good balance in life.
Q: Favorite electronic device?
A: My iPhone. I use it a lot but what I find that is most enjoyable about it is that my kids and grandkids show me how to use it. They show me all the new apps, bells and whistles you can do with it.
Q: Have you been following Jimmer Fredette this year?
A: I haven't had any time to watch how he has been playing or study him but I have noticed that he is getting a chance to play. I saw he has started a few games since (Marcus) Thornton has been injured, but I haven't had a chance to study or evaluate his overall game in the NBA. It is great that he is getting an opportunity to play and you have to give guys time to figure out the league. One thing I do know is that shooters are hard to find and especially shooters that can make a high percentage of shots and Jimmer can shoot.
Q: How do young kids improve their game?
A: Learning how to play, execute and play as a team is crucial. A lot of kids spend so much time on individual skills, which is important, like ball-handling. But learning the strategy of the game is so crucial. It is important to teach them how to think and learn the game just as much as working on their skills.