On one extreme we have Bill Belichick, architect of five Super Bowl-winning editions of your New England Patriots. He enjoys a cult-like status throughout the region, his every play call, every draft pick, every utterance, accepted as gospel.

And if you disagree with Belichick? He doesn’t care. He’ll just tell you he’s on to Cincinnati or someplace.

Then we have John Farrell, who in 2013 managed the Boston Red Sox to an improbable World Series championship. Yet he can’t pick out a head of lettuce at the market without being mocked and ridiculed by incredulous fans and snarky talk-show hosts.

His junior high-level staredown with Rich Keefe of WEEI suggests Farrell is sensitive to criticism and cares very much what people think.

And somewhere in the middle stands Danny Ainge.

A former Celtic from the days of the Original Big Three, Ainge played on a pair of title teams. Later, and of most importance in this discussion, it was Ainge, as head of basketball operations for the Celtics, who engineered the Ray Allen trade and then traveled to Malibu, and rang Kevin Garnett’s doorbell.

The result: A newly assembled Big Three of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce.


When the Celtics blew the Los Angeles Lakers out of the Garden in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA finals, it was their first NBA title clincher since June 8, 1986, when Ainge himself scored 19 points in the breezy Game 6 dismissal of the Houston Rockets.

It took a long time for him to return, but Ainge the player became Ainge the builder. And such was the ballyhoo following the Celts’ 2008 championship that there were calls for his old No. 44 to be retired right then and there, with Danny feeling the need to towel everyone down by saying, “Anyone who knows me knows that won’t happen. … raising a championship banner is enough.”

That was nine years ago. The Celtics haven’t won a championship since.

Oh, they did make it to the finals two years later and, sure, there’s every reason to believe they would have taken out the Lakers in Game 7 had not Kendrick Perkins been idled with a crushing Game 6 knee injury. And yes, in what would be the last go-round for the New Big Three, the Celts took the Miami Heat to seven games in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals before running out of time and oxygen.

Close calls are lovely, except in 21st-century Boston. Again, it has been nine years for Danny and the Celtics. The teflon wall that was built around Ainge, paid for by citizens of a grateful Celtic Nation, has chipped away.

“Rebuilding” is sometimes a necessity in professional sports, and because of that harsh reality fans need to know when to lower their expectations and be patient.

And even though the Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference finals this season, there’s a sense that the same rebuilding scaffolding has been in place for five years and it’s not coming down any time soon. In 2012, there was a chance the Celtics could get past Miami in the Eastern Conference and if that happened, a chance they could beat San Antonio or Oklahoma City and win one more championship before the New Big Three went out of business.

But this time around the Celtics weren’t going to get past Cleveland in the East; and even if they did, which they didn’t, they weren’t going to beat Golden State.

And now? The Cavs are in disarray. And who knows what shape the Warriors will be in by the time next year’s postseason rolls around. Put it all together, and no, sorry, Celtics fans aren’t going to be buyers if Ainge isn’t a buyer over the next week or so.

Oh, fans will be buyers in terms of tickets and T-shirts, but that’s only because the Celtics – and this is a compliment, not a criticism – have created an environment in which it’s genuinely fun to get down to Causeway Street and catch a game. From the players to the Celtics Dancers, from cheerleader owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca to acrobatic Lucky the Leprechaun, the Celtics are solid-gold entertainment.

But buying tickets isn’t the same as buying in. And hardcore fans want to buy in. The new bumper sticker is “Danny: Do something!”

We keep reading about all these assets Ainge has in his back pocket.

But to real Celtics fans, the only asset they care about is the street value of a freshly minted Larry O’Brien Trophy.

And so the teflon has fallen away and now Danny Ainge is, to borrow a draft-day expression, on the clock.