Last summer, the Phoenix Suns hired Danny Ainge’s right-hand man, Ryan McDonough as their new GM. McDonough has spearheaded a superb, early comeback for the Suns who have been dreadful following the Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire/Shawn Marion/Mike D’Antoni “Seven seconds or less” era. Recently, Jonathan Abrams, who writes some of the most spectacular pieces about the NBA for Grantland, wrote about the surprise of the NBA this year, which has been the Suns. Abrams has a fun tidbit shared by McDonough on his relationship with Ainge and how he taught him how to approach the position:
McDonough is from a sports family. His father, Will, was a longtime columnist for the Boston Globe. One brother, Sean, is an ESPN broadcaster. Another, Terry, was recently promoted from scout for the Arizona Cardinals to vice-president of player personnel.
Ryan McDonough worked several roles in Boston’s front office over the past decade. He is a modern general manager, one who merges statistical analysis and scouting to make decisions. He started in Boston as an assistant to the video coordinator and scrapped his way up to become Ainge’s right-hand man.
“It was a pretty easy sell to everybody here and to the fans to shake it up, that some changes needed to be made,” McDonough said. “But that’s the thing I learned from Danny [Ainge], to be unafraid. Of course, now he’s trying to shake me down for a bunch of different things, but that’s who he is; he’s a competitive guy.”
Two key things here to take away from that tidbit. First, McDonough points out perhaps what is Ainge’s best trait as a GM: to be unafraid. Ainge has demonstrated this consistently throughout his tenure here. Early on he traded fan favorite Antoine Walker, and even traded back for him. He’s the guy, on record, to have dealt away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett… at the same time. With being able to evaluate talent, it’s probably the most important characteristic of a GM in any sport. Ainge has it and McDonough has learned well.
The second part, even though McDonough likely said it in jest, was that Ainge is trying to shake him down for some things. McDonough’s style is reflected in Ainge’s teachings as he also has accumulated several picks over the next few years. They also have a solid relationship so naturally I’m sure Phoenix is one team Ainge has discussions with a bit (Ainge also has a history there as a player and head coach). Just a fun little tidbit out there to think about.