From right to left, former Maine Red Claws majority owner Bill Ryan Jr., Boston Celtics President Rich Gotham, Celtics Director of Player Personnel Austin Ainge and Red Claws President Dajuan Eubanks answer questions during a media conference at the Portland Expo on Tuesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

The Maine Red Claws always have been an affiliate of the Boston Celtics. Now, after a decade of local ownership, the Red Claws are a subsidiary as well.

Members of the Celtics’ front office visited the Portland Expo on Tuesday to cap the purchase of the G League franchise, finalizing a transaction announced in late July.

Rich Gotham, the president of the Celtics, said not to expect any major changes.

“What we’re trying to do is learn first,” he said. “They run a good operation up here. I think they could use some help with resources, like most minor league sports teams could. We’ve got a much bigger staff, a much bigger budget.”

The Celtics retained all 10 full-time employees of the Red Claws and tried to quash any relocation rumors.

“This is where the franchise is and we’re not moving it,” said Wyc Grousbeck, lead owner and governor of the Celtics.


The Red Claws have a five-year lease with the city of Portland to play through the 2023-24 season and an option for a five-year extension through 2029.

Bill Ryan Jr., the Red Claws’ chairman and principal owner since February 2009, when the 16-team NBA Developmental League awarded Portland a minor-league basketball franchise, called Tuesday’s news extraordinarily exciting.

“What we have built is being turned over to one of the most storied professional sports organizations in the world,” said Ryan, who will no longer have a role with the franchise. “We’re thrilled with what the Celtics bring. With their resources and their expertise – I mean, we’re proud of what we do – but I think you’ll see something even better.”

Ryan, Grousbeck and Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca declined to discuss a sale price. The Celtics bought out Ryan and his father as well as 10 minority partners. Dajuan Eubanks remains as team president.

“You won’t see any difference in our staff,” Eubanks said. “You’ll get the same experience, but enhanced, because we’ll have more resources to improve the fan engagement.”

Four years ago, a Sports Business Journal story pegged the expansion fee paid by Toronto’s Raptors 905 G-League club at $6 million after noting a $4 million price tag on the 2014 purchase of the Westchester Knicks by the New York Knicks.


Gotham said the sale actually closed about a month ago but an announcement was delayed until all the principals could gather in Maine. He said the Celtics talked with Ryan for more than a year about selling the team.

“It was clear this was the direction the league was going,” Ryan said. “The NBA was very interested in having their teams own G League teams.”

Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who took over as G League president in December, attended the announcement. All but two of the NBA’s 30 teams have a G League affiliate. Of those 28 G League franchises, 26 are fully owned and operated by their NBA parent club.

“I think the way the business of the NBA is going, the G League is seen as an increasingly strategic asset to the overall growth of the (NBA),” Gotham said. “We felt it would be a good time for us to get more involved and, honestly, take a little more control of our destiny, particularly in integrating our on-the-court and off-the-court functions.”

Twelve former Red Claws coaches are in the NBA, including the past two head coaches, Scott Morrison and Brandon Bailey, both on the staff of Celtics Coach Brad Stevens. At the start of the 2018-19 season, 40 percent of players on NBA rosters had G League experience.

The new owners praised the Expo for its atmosphere and history, and did not mention a game being postponed last season because of a leaky roof that made the floor unsafe.


“As long as you can accommodate a 7-foot-7 guy, I think we’re in good shape,” said Gotham, referring to the explosion of popularity surrounding Tacko Fall, the Senegalese center who can grasp the rim without jumping and recently signed a two-way contract to play in Maine for much of the season.

“One of the great things about this venue is that it seats the right amount of people,” Gotham said. “When you have a huge arena and a bunch of empty seats, there’s no atmosphere.”

The Red Claws begin their 11th season Nov. 9 at Delaware. Their home opener is scheduled for Nov. 15 against Fort Wayne at the Expo. NBC Sports Boston is expected to televise all 24 home games.

“Tacko Time up here is going to be incredible,” Pagliuca said. “Tacko’s already been a big force down in Boston and in the community. He’ll do great things here as well. And you have very high ceilings, which is fantastic.”

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