Celtics ownership deserves credit for the team being within striking distance of the No. 18 NBA title

But there’s also a responsibility to recognize owners for doing the right thing, for making decisions that put their organization on the path to success. There’s a lot of credit given for the Celtics’ NBA Finals season, but you have to start at the top with primary owner Wyc Grousbeck and co-owner Steve Pagliuca.

They deserve a salute for the bold moves to elevate Brad Stevens to president of basketball operations with no front office experience, and to replace Stevens with a first NBA coach in Ime Udoka. They were two Robert Williams slam-dunk rookies – rookies that put the Celtics in position to compete for the No. 18 banner and up.

They look like a no-brainer now after the franchise’s first Finals appearance in a dozen years, but last year around this time the Greens were met with great skepticism. It felt like they had demoted in both places after a disappointing and underperforming season.

No. The decisions are among the best of this property’s tenure, which will mark its 20th anniversary in September.

Interestingly, the idea to promote Stevens to replace Danny Ainge came from Grousbeck. He pitched Stevens on hitting the masthead.

It was a quirky fix and a big gamble since you were uprooting Stevens from the bench, where he was widely regarded as a top NBA coach, despite a frustrating 36-36 campaign in 2020-21.

Stevens took a day to consider the promotion from the floor and signed.

“Brad had been here for eight years and I had developed a partnership relationship with him, which is essential between a general manager and a principal owner,” Grousbeck said via email. “And we all appreciate his brilliant basketball spirit.”

It was a bold move, and not necessarily a popular one, especially with much intrigue and speculation following Ainge’s sudden departure after 18 seasons. The Celtics’ official exit on June 2, 2021, vaguely referred to her as Ainge “retiring” from her role. Ainge’s “retreat” lasted six months. He is back as Alternate Governor and CEO of the Jazz.

Ime Udoka has proven to be the right coach for this Celtics team.Matthew J Lee/Globe Staff

It was thought the Celtics would struggle to lure a talented coach to Causeway Street with Stevens’ shadow returning to the bench looming.

But that wasn’t the case with Udoka, a highly regarded assistant, protege of Spurs mastermind Gregg Popovich and former NBA player. Udoka, outspoken and direct, proved to be just what the Celtics needed to unlock their potential and that of stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

“Brad made a list of coaches and for me the best choice was clearly Ime, and I’m very happy that he accepted,” Grousbeck said.

There didn’t seem to be any victory laps for Grousbeck and Pagliuca on their general manager and coaching hires in January when the team was 23-24. The Celtics looked set for a break rather than a breakthrough. But you know the rest.

Fittingly, they started the Finals against the Warriors on June 2, the one-year anniversary of Stevens’ elevation.

If there’s one trait Grousbeck appreciates, it’s stability. He and Pagliuca are the anti-George Steinbrenners.

Besides Jim O’Brien, whom they inherited as head coach, or interim coach John Carroll, they hired three head coaches: Doc Rivers, Stevens and Udoka. Only two people have served as basketball operations chair.

Celtics gigs are like the job of an NBA Supreme Court judge.

That latitude and wiggle room is appealing in a league where coaches are treated like disposable razors.

“They’ve been great from day one,” Udoka said of the property. “That’s something that stands out is that they all deal with the same things, and we have a top-down alignment with what we’re trying to do here in this organization.

“Pags and Wyc and the rest of the group have been extremely helpful this year and supportive. Like I said, we took our pieces early, but they were always in tune with what we were trying to do, the foundations we were trying to lay and what we were playing for.

I know the Celtics won’t venture into luxury tax territory. But they plan to do so now with a chance of winning a second title as owners.

Wyc Grousbeck (far left) and Celtics ownership had no qualms about splashing the cash on big free agents.Jean Tlumacki

They also shelled out to bring in Al Horford (the first time through free agency), Gordon Hayward (free agency) and Kyrie Irving (trade), and paid the tax in 2019.

Not all of these moves paid off, one of the reasons there was a feeling the team would benefit from fresh eyes and ideas in the team-builder role and on the bench.

Discussing the offseason plan, Stevens revealed his ideological departure from Ainge.

“I think with our group in particular, it’s not so much about blindly acquiring talent as it is about building a team,” said Stevens, who was once in charge of assembling some of Ainge’s talent collections.

Winning in the NBA requires investment, wise decision-making, and luck. But the Celtics look set to redecorate the rafters, picking up two wins before a championship.

“They’ve only been more supportive of what we’ve done this year,” Udoka said. “So from top to bottom they’ve been great to work with myself, Brad and the team in general. Obviously I’ve had a taste of where we’ve come this year, and we’re obviously trying… to get #18 here.

It is certain that Grousbeck, Pagliuca and Co. will be wrong in the future. It comes with the territory.

If the Celtics possess one organizational weakness, it’s falling in love with their employees, especially those on the field, a little too much.

But last year around this time there was a lot of doubt and ridicule about the direction of the franchise and the unproven ownership of the people set up to guide it.

This has been replaced by abundant optimism.

If you want to see why the Celtics are positioned as the closest Boston sports team to bringing another championship to the Hub of Hardware, start at the top.


Christopher L. Gasper is a columnist for The Globe. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.