In today's episode of Season Ticket, Boston Celtics CEO and co-owner, Wyc Grousbeck, joins host Chris Gasper (@cgasper) to discuss 15 years owning the the Celtics. Topics include how running the team is different from running a typical business, his aggressive philosophy in building a championship contender, and what the Celtics organization means to him.
- Wyc Grousbeck, CEO and co-owner, The Boston Celtics
On whether he thought the Celtics would be as successful as they have been after Gordon Hayward went down with injury
Wyc Grousbeck: No way. With our team that we thought we had together [with Hayward], we thought we could be a team that surprised everybody like the '07 team in terms of going on streaks and being super good. I thought we had the makings of a really good team. But then seeing Gordon go down so horrifically, I've got to say I was just thinking we'd be scrapping and trying to build and seeing if we could survive the year. We're off to a much better start than I thought.
On why he thinks the Celtics are different from a business
Grousbeck: The cliche the line everybody says is, "it's a business." And, the fact is, it's not a business. Nobody I know around the Celtics thinks [of] the Celtics as a business. It's a labor of love. It's a great passion. It's a tradition. We don't run it like a business. We do have business aspects to it but we run it for love. And you can start with Brad Stevens and the way he loves the team and the players. And you can talk about Kyrie Irving. You know, there's a lot of love going around this team. It's not a business. And that's, actually, why it's going well this year.
"It's a labor of love. It's a great passion. It's a tradition. We don't run it like a business. We do have business aspects to it but we run it for love."Wyc Grousbeck, on owning the Celtics
On whether Gordon Hayward could return this season
Grousbeck: Well, I've been told that it's a long road back but it's better to have broken a bone than not to. Look at Paul George, who had a different injury but a horrific break, and he's back playing at an All-NBA level. So we're very hopeful that Gordon can come back over the long term, but we don't have any predictions about when that's going to be. And we have that disabled player exception for the year, so that tends to show you what everybody thinks. The medical community doesn't think he's rushing back anytime soon. We won't rush him back.
On why he overhauled the Celtics roster this past offseason
Grousbeck: I approved the [Kyrie Irving] trade and the moves over the summer because I didn't feel that we were at a championship contender level [last year] and I didn't see us getting there, necessarily. I loved the guys and there was an unbelievable bond, but we changed 11 guys out of 15 because my job is to get us all the way back.
On Kyrie Irving and the team-oriented mindset of the Celtics
Grousbeck: Kyrie Irving is absolutely unbelievable as a person, as a player bonding the team together. He's a giver. He actually gives a lot to the younger guys on the team. He gives a lot to the fans. That's what he is and it's been a real pleasure seeing him here. I think the real key to this team is the teamwork, though. It's not just one [guy]. And Kyrie says he's a partner with Al [Horford] and Gordon [Hayward] and everybody else and Brad [Stevens]. And that's how he feels about it. So it's really the mindset, and then guys like Kyrie within that mindset in helping create it and take it to another level.
On Isaiah Thomas and why trading him was not a typical 'business decision'
Grousbeck: If it's a business, it's a business of trying to win a championship. In other words, that wasn't a dollars and cents move. That was a move to try to take us to a different [level]. We all feel very strong about Isaiah and I've seen recent things he said where he's happy that we're playing well and he thinks Kyrie's amazing. Isaiah's just a super quality person and I'll be rooting for him, although he'll be in the Cavaliers uniform, when he comes back.
On how the Kyrie Irving trade got finalized after almost falling apart
Grousbeck: It was not that easy to get the deal done. It wasn't easy for us to pull the trigger and make the trade. I'm sure it wasn't easy for Cleveland to trade Kyrie to an up-and-coming rival in the East. But we got it done.
Chris Gasper: Was there ever a point you thought it wouldn't get done?
Grousbeck: The text I got was from [Cleveland Cavaliers owner] Dan Gilbert saying, "Are we going to get this thing done or not?" So he and I got the deal done by text that day. That's how the deal ended up.
On trading down from the number one pick in the draft
Grousbeck: When the picks come up Danny makes them. So, we look to Danny to lead our talent evaluation. The trades are another thing. There's more input and there's more back-and-forth and there are more aspects to it, and he leads that process as well. But he really has total authority to make a pick. But Danny really liked a number of people in the draft. Jayson was at the top of his list. We thought we could get Jayson at [pick] three and we got an extra first round pick that could be a very good one, potentially, in the deal.
"It's a lot easier to sit there and be passive, or live in another city and not do anything and just go with the flow and not care. But, if you really do care, you've got to dig in and make these moves and take a risk. And that's what we do."Wyc Grousbeck, on being aggressive in building a championship contender
On being aggressive when building a team
Grousbeck: It is a lot easier, when you own a team, to do nothing—not to make a trade, not to go out there and expose yourself, not to say things like, "We're going to try for fireworks," five years ago or whenever I said it. It's a lot easier to sit there and be passive, or live in another city and not do anything and just go with the flow and not care. But, if you really do care, you've got to dig in and make these moves and take a risk. And that's what we do.
On the passion within the Celtics organization
Grousbeck: I've been looking for a banner for 15 years. You know, we got one. Now I'm looking for a second one. I've been to the Finals twice. I want to be in the Finals five more times. This is what I want. This is what I burn for and live for. I regret none of this. I don't regret a second of being at the Celtics. I put everything on the line for it. Business-wise or in a professional capacity it's the love of my life. I love the Celtics and this is what I do. And then I have the love of my life in my personal life. But it's an amazing thing to be involved with the Celtics and I don't regret a second of it ... And look who's come? Brad Stevens came because he believed. And then Al Horford chose us and came because he believed. And then Gordon Hayward chose us. And now here's Kyrie and he's throwing his heart and soul into it. This is a place people wanted to be because of that passion.
On whether the Celtics will give Marcus Smart an extension
Grousbeck: We evaluate Marcus Smart game-by-game along with all the other players and he's a phenomenal contributor. He's a real heart-and-soul glue guy for the team. He makes so many plays that contribute to winning. When we've won a game, you can usually find Marcus's fingerprints on it. And we love having him as a Celtic.
Gasper: Obviously, you're a business guy and you know a lot of times there can be undervalued assets. The things that Marcus does don't necessarily show up on a stat sheet. Does that make him an undervalued asset?
Grousbeck: Well, his agent sees them all and lets us know about them. And we didn't come to a deal with his agent. So, I don't know if he's undervalued or overvalued, or what. But, anyway, that's a discussion that we'll have at the end of the year.
"This is what I burn for and live for. I regret none of this. I don't regret a second of being at the Celtics. I put everything on the line for it. Business-wise or in a professional capacity, it's the love of my life."Wyc Grousbeck, on what the Celtics mean to him
On Celtics fans
Grousbeck: The fans are really an important piece of what we do with the Celtics. [The owners] are the fans who bought the team. We do this for the people who went before. We do this for the greats of the past ... We're like trustees that hold this great Celtics institution in honor of those who built it, you know, to try to pass it on to the future generation. Like, it's a really meaningful thing to me personally. It's not that I own it. It's that we are trying to take care of this great thing. And so the fans are a big piece of that. And we thank them. They're selling out every game. They make a difference when free agents look at us. When we win these games it's because the fans are going crazy. It's a big piece of it. And I just want to thank them. And they know we're all in it together. But we appreciate them very much.