They were teammates for seven seasons, from 1982 through 1988, the last of the glory years for the Boston Celtics. They won two championships ('84 and '86) and made it to two other Finals ('85 and '87).
But as front-office types, Larry Bird (Indiana Pacers), Kevin McHale (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Danny Ainge (Celtics) have not experienced similar success. (Insert understatement comment of own choosing.)
McHale's T'wolves are frequent visitors to the postseason but have made it out of the first round only once since he took over as the top front-office man in 1995. Ainge's Celtics had lost 18 straight as of Tuesday, which must be a tad difficult on Danny, who played on Celtics teams that in '84, '85 and '86 lost just 20, 19 and 15 games, respectively, the entire season. Bird's Pacers have qualified for the postseason in each of his three full seasons but haven't been able to get out of the Eastern Conference. They will probably make the playoffs again in the anemic East, but no one is expecting them to go far.
One might say Bird. His team has the best record of the three. He and team president Donnie Walsh (they make decisions together) have begun to remake the Pacers' image, having traded problem children Ron Artest last season and Stephen Jackson last month. He has a perennial All-Star in Jermaine O'Neal and a fan base that still considers him Larry Legend. But ...
One might say McHale. He still has a chance to make the playoffs in the tough West. His deal (with the Celts, as a matter of fact) to get improving center Mark Blount looks good. And he has a great player in Kevin Garnett, who has yet to threaten to burn down the Target Center if the proper cavalry cannot be gathered to support him. But ...
I'm going to take the unlikely pick and say AINGE. For one thing, things can't get any worse. Kobe Bryant -- a Laker! -- was cheered in Boston recently. That represents a measurable low point. The return of a healthy Paul Pierce will end the losing streak. (I'm betting on Wednesday night at home against the Milwaukee Bucks; it had better happen since Boston goes on the road for five tough Western games after the All-Star break.)
Further, Ainge has a bunch of young guys (some of whom can even play) and a real, real early pick (the Celts can finish with 44 wins, but that's only if they go on a 32-game winning streak to close the season), and that gives him the potential to make numerous deals and remake the team. So he does have options, and he's never been afraid to make a deal.
A final bit of good news for Ainge? I've yet to see cost overruns from the Big Dig blamed on him.