In one way or another, there will be change this offseason in Boston. That process started in the past couple days, with the first piece moving out coming as a name most C’s fans might not be familiar with. Yet, it was Celtics’ assistant general manager Ryan McDonough, one of Danny Ainge’s top lieutenants, who was hired away by the Phoenix Suns to become their general manager earlier this week.
McDonough will head a rebuilding process in the desert, but make no mistake, his absence will be felt here in Boston as well, as the 33-year-old is a great scout and was one of the key advocates in bringing players like Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley to Boston.
McDonough was officially introduced to the Phoenix media today out in Arizona. Based upon the sentiments shared by those in the C’s organization, you can see how much of an impact the son of legendary columnist Will McDonough had made in Beantown over the past 10 years as shared to Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe.
“For the past 10 years, he’s played a huge part in our success,” said Ainge, adding that McDonough is like a son to him.
“I’m very excited for Ryan,” Ainge said. “He’s reliable and competent and I’m going to miss him. At the same time, I’m very excited about this opportunity for him. This is what his dream is.”
The more pressing question for the here and now: how will McDonough’s absence affect the Celtics in the short term this summer?
“With the people we have, we should be able to get through the draft,” Ainge said. “Ryan has done a good job up to this point. And we have all prepared for free agency. There is obviously more to do, but we’re doing these things every day, throughout the course of the year.”
Celtics’ ownership hasn’t been shy in sharing their admiration for McDonough as well as he moves on.
“Ryan has been an important part of our basketball operations and will be missed,” said Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck. “I personally hired him following a conversation with his late dad Will and Red Auerbach and expected that he would pursue a career in our media department.
“But he requested a role as junior scout and excelled immediately, working his way to assistant GM and now a full GM job in the league.
“I couldn’t be happier for him and I am sure his late dad as well as Red are very proud right now.”
McDonough’s path to the top has been short, but follows the model of other successful recent hires around the NBA, as Paul Coro points out in his piece for the Arizona Republic while speaking with scouts from around the league.
Mike Procopio took note of that when Ryan joined the Celtics’ video room with him 10 years ago. There was no doubt what McDonough envisioned for himself.
“From Day 1, he wanted to be a GM,” said Procopio, now the director of Hoop Consultants, which has assisted players such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Channing Frye. “There’s a difference between being ambitious and a guy who’ll cut corners to get ahead. He did it the right way and wanted to learn.”
McDonough broke down college video, and Procopio handled international video for 14-hour days in their early years. Their work led led to debates about players, starting with their first draft on the job. The Celtics staff was high on Marcus Banks, their eventual pick, but McDonough also argued for drafting David West.
Procopio considers McDonough to be in the new mold of NBA coaches (Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau and Indiana’s Frank Vogel) and executives (Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti and Orlando’s Rob Hennigan) who advanced on work ethic and studiousness rather than playing recognition.
“Phoenix needs a guy to get it right and a guy who is going to make meticulous decisions,” Procopio said. “You get a guy who is going to grind every day. He wants any edge he can find. He’ll study it and give Phoenix every chance to be successful. He buries himself in his work. Phoenix needs someone to stabilize the situation and he’ll do that.”
For more great reading on McDonough, be sure to check out a profile by Paul Flannery of SBNation.com from just a couple months ago, which chronicles Ryan’s work and history with the Celtics, behind the scenes.