WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) — Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said on Wednesday that he regrets tossing a towel in the air to distract an opponent during a free throw attempt, calling himself “unprofessional” for doing so.
“This is very simple, OK: I regret that. That was very unprofessional,” Ainge told WEEI-AM. “I was having fun with the hecklers and the crowd sitting around me. You know what, there’s just no excuse. It was unprofessional.”
Ainge was caught by the TV broadcast of Monday night’s game in Cleveland throwing a towel in the air when Cavaliers forward J.J. Hickson was at the line in the third quarter. Boston led by 23 points at the time, and Hickson made the free throw anyway.
The Celtics went on to win 104-86 to tie the best-of-seven series at one game apiece. Afterward, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said Ainge’s behavior was “interesting” but said he had no problem with it “as long as it’s within the rules.”
Ainge said he hoped his apology would end the matter.
“The biggest reason I regret it is because you guys should be talking about the great play of the Celtics instead of a towel incident,” he told the station. “Sometimes the competitiveness gets the best of me. That’s no excuse. Hopefully we can move on past this and focus on the players and the real issues.”
Ainge, who did not return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment, said he had not heard from the NBA about a possible fine. NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league was aware of the incident and reviewing it.
“Usually, when things become public like this, you do hear from the league,” Ainge said. “I don’t think David Stern really cares about a towel being thrown, but it’s become such a public story.
“I’d like to give my charitable contribution to those of my own choice, but I’m confident the league does well with our money.”
It’s not Ainge’s first brush with bath linens: When he was coaching the Phoenix Suns, Robert Horry — his own player — argued with him on the bench and threw a towel at his head.
Ainge was widely known as an irritant as a player, once annoying Tree Rollins so much that the Atlanta Hawks center famously bit him.
“I think Danny’s going back to his playing days,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said with a chuckle.