O'Brien's frustration leads to resignation

Updated: January 28, 2004, 3:03 PM ET
By Dr. Jack Ramsay | Special to ESPN.com

Jim O'Brien just couldn't take it anymore.

He had watched powerlessly as the personnel of the Boston Celtics team that he had taken to the Eastern Conference finals just two years ago was reduced to two members (Paul Pierce and Walter McCarty) and last year's squad -- a surprise playoff winner over Indiana -- was broken up by trades that he opposed. O'Brien did the honorable thing and resigned, forfeiting the last two years of a lucrative, guaranteed contract.

Jim O'Brien
Jim O'Brien guided the Celtics to the playoffs the last two seasons.
O'Brien found himself unable to work with the personnel policies of general manager Danny Ainge, who orchestrated the deal that sent Antoine Walker and Tony Delk to Dallas for Raef LaFrentz and Jiri Welsch, and the deal with Cleveland that replaced Tony Battie, Eric Williams and Kedrick Brown with Ricky Davis, Chris Mihm and Michael Stewart.

O'Brien told Ainge they were not good trades and the reasons why he opposed them. Ainge listened and made the deals anyway. Ainge feels that Davis, Pierce, Mihm, Welsch and Marcus Banks are the foundation for a contending team; O'Brien does not.

What is left is a team that struggles to win against everybody in the NBA. The Celts are 22-24, hanging tenuously to the sixth playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The team has two inexperienced point guards in Mike James and Banks. O'Brien's focus was on building team defense first (the Celts were tied for second in the East in field-goal percentage defense at .427) and then finding the best ways to score with the personnel at hand. Ainge puts offense as the top priority.

It's an unfortunate decision that O'Brien felt necessary to make. He has done an excellent coaching job with modest NBA talent. His players have a high regard for him as a coach and a person, and they will sorely miss his presence.

The silver lining for O'Brien will be that his coaching skills have received high marks around the league. He won't wait long for his next opportunity.

Dr. Jack Ramsay, Jim O'Brien's father-in-law, coached the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship. A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Click here to send a question for Dr. Jack for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Legendary coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay served as lead game analyst for The NBA on ESPN Radio. He also contributed to ESPN.com and ESPN The Mag.

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