Danny Ainge was nation's top player in 1981 and is member of the Academic All-America Hall of Fame. He will become the first BYU men's basketball player to have his jersey retired on March 8, 2003. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- In a historic event, BYU will retire the uniform of former Cougar great Danny Ainge on March 8, 2003, during the final regular season home game against Colorado State. Ainge becomes the first BYU men's basketball player to have his jersey retired.
"A tradition of retiring jerseys is long overdue at BYU," BYU Director of Men's Athletics Val Hale said. "We have had some incredible coaches and athletes represent this university in the past. It will be fun to be reminded of them each time we see their jerseys hanging from the rafters and the press box. This is one more step we are taking to try to bring the past and present together for the benefit of our fans and our former and current athletes."
Many of Ainge's former coaches and teammates are expected to be in attendance at the game. During the ceremony, Ainge's No. 22 jersey will be hung from the Marriott Center rafters, where it will be on permanent display. To commemorate the event, the first 20,000 fans in attendance will receive a souvenir poster highlighting his accomplishments. Vintage Danny Ainge jerseys will also be for sale on the concourse level.
Ainge's jersey, not his number, will be retired. Future players may still have the option to wear No. 22. The criteria considered to retire a jersey include the following:
-- First team All-American
-- Recipient of major national award
-- University graduate
-- Minimum 15-year waiting period
-- Significant accomplishments after BYU graduation (athletics, community, church)
-- Faithful member of LDS Church or other religious affiliation
Two football players -- Eldon Fortie (1960-62), who wore No. 40, and Marion Probert (1951-54), who wore No. 81 -- have had their jerseys retired.
Known for his competitive, hard-nosed playing style, Ainge has become one of the most famous athletes to graduate from BYU. Ainge played for BYU from 1978-81.
During his four-year career as a Cougar, Ainge was a Consensus All-American, a two-time First Team Academic All-American, the WAC Player of the Year and a four-time All-WAC selection. He set an NCAA record with 112 consecutive games scoring in double digits and broke the BYU and WAC all-time scoring records with 2,467 points -- before the three-point era.
As a senior in 1981, Ainge led BYU to the NCAA Elite Eight at the Eastern Regional in Atlanta. He concluded his senior season by winning the Eastman Award as well as the John Wooden Award -- given annually to the top collegiate basketball player in the nation.
Ainge beat out Isiah Thomas (Indiana), Sam Bowie (Kentucky), Mark Aguirre (DePaul), Ralph Sampson (Virginia) and Steve Johnson (Oregon State) to win the Wooden Award. In doing so, he became the award's fifth winner, joining Marques Johnson, Larry Bird, Phil Ford and Darrell Griffith.
A two-sport athlete, Ainge was drafted by both the Toronto Blue Jays for baseball and the Boston Celtics for basketball. After playing four seasons with the Blue Jays, including several while attending BYU, he chose to pursue an NBA career.
Ainge was a member of the Celtics' 1984 and 1986 Championship teams, and played in six NBA finals with three different teams (Boston, Portland and Phoenix). He also played for the Sacramento Kings. He became only the third player in NBA history to make 1,000 three-point field goals, finishing his 14-year career with 1,002.
Ainge played in 193 NBA playoff games, which ranks third all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 237 games and Scottie Pippen's 204. He ranks ahead of Magic Johnson, Robert Parrish, John Havlicek and Bill Russell to name a few.
After retiring in 1995, Ainge was an NBA basketball television analyst for Turner Broadcasting for one year before the Phoenix Suns brought him back to the organization as an assistant and then the head coach in 1996. Realizing he wanted to spend more time with his family, Ainge resigned as head coach in 1999. In his three years as head coach of the Suns, Ainge had a mark of 123-83 (.597) with three NBA Playoff appearances.
Ainge was inducted into the GTE Academic All-America Hall of Fame in May 2000. He currently works with Turner Broadcasting as an NBA analyst. His son Austin is a freshman on the 2002-03 BYU basketball team.
Tickets to the BYU-CSU game honoring Ainge are available at the BYU Ticket Office or by calling 800-322-BYU1. The game on Saturday, March 8, starts at 7 p.m.
"This is certainly a well-deserved honor for Danny," BYU Head Basketball Coach Steve Cleveland said. "I really like that fact that we are recognizing the accomplishments of people who have helped create an excellent basketball tradition at BYU. Obviously, Danny's impact on the program has been significant. I look forward to seeing his jersey hanging from the Marriott Center rafters."
BYU is celebrating its 100th year of basketball this season. The Cougars are ranked among the top-40 all-time NCAA programs in winning percentage with a combined 1444-928 (.609) record. The Cougars have recorded 80 winning seasons and advanced to a postseason tournament 28 years, with 19 NCAA bids and nine NIT berths. BYU has won 25 conference titles.