Family time wins over basketball

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 1999

Danny Ainge surprised the basketball world Monday by resigning his head coaching job with the Phoenix Suns. The reason for this abrupt resignation is a simple one for Ainge. He wants to spend more time with his family.

Ainge has dedicated most of his life to his athletic career. The Brigham Young graduate was a two-sport star. He played at BYU from 1977 to 1981.

He was drafted by baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays and basketball’s Boston Celtics.

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His baseball career lasted from 1978 to 1981. He had a good glove but couldn’t hit the ball.

With baseball in the background, Ainge settled in Boston playing on the parquet floors with future Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. His career with the Celtics lasted from 1981-1988. After 1988, Ainge would play for Sacremento, Portland and Phoenix. He ended his career as a player in 1994.

With his playing days gone, Ainge took the next logical step to coaching. Phoenix coach Cotton Fitzsimmons expectedly resigned in 1996 and the reigns to the Suns team were handed to Ainge. He had the makings of a good team in Phoenix.

Any team that has players like Jason Kidd, Penny Hardaway and Tom Gugliotta definitely had the potential to make the playoffs.

Unfortunately, the Suns can only hope to contend with the Utah Jazz as best of the second tier in the west.

Teams like San Antonio, Portland and Los Angeles has too much size up front. This led to matchup problems for the Suns.

Ainge knew these obstacles were in his path. He also knew that it would take long hours to overcome them.

Making the Sun winners could come at a heavy price for the Ainge family.

Ainge has six children, ages 4 to 19. The Suns’ coach said he became increasingly aware that he was not living up to his responsibilities as a father and husband, responsibilities that are emphasized by his Mormon faith.

”It really comes down to just wanting to make a statement to my family that they are more important than my career,” Ainge said.

Although the Suns were on a seven-game winning streak, Ainge struggled to find happiness.

”I felt like I had a lot of little kid in me when I played,” Ainge said. ”I feel like that little kid is dead because I haven’t been able to enjoy it.”

Ainge had a 136-90 record with the Suns.

It is easy to identify Ainge’s quandary. When a child is born, there is usually a change in what is important in life.

These priorities usually shift from self and career to raising one’s child.

Most parents aren’t in the position Ainge is in. Most try to juggle career and parenting.

Hopefully, Ainge will find happiness and quality time with his family.

Don’t expect for him to fade in the sunset.

Suns owner Jerry Colangelo said there would be a spot in the front office if Ainge decides he wants it. Ainge, who played in the NBA for 14 seasons, also said he might return to work as a television commentator.

”I need a job,” Ainge said. ”I’m not looking to retire at age 40 and get away and not doing anything the rest of my life and play golf. I have no intention of doing that.”

Tim Isbell is creative director at The Democrat. He can be reached at 446-5172 ext. 233 or by e-mail at