Celtics

Danny Ainge opens up about his decision to retire: ‘I trust my instincts’

"I trust my instincts and my instincts told me a couple months ago that it was time for me to move on and that's what's best for us — that's what's best for the Celtics."

Danny Ainge will be retiring from his role as President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics and Brad Stevens has been promoted to the team's President of Basketball Operations. Auerbach Center

When Danny Ainge approached Celtics ownership about potentially retiring as President of Basketball Operations in March, the franchise asked him to think about the decision.

“We asked him to think about it some more when he first came up with it, to make sure he thought it through,” Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca told reporters via Zoom on Wednesday. “I just can’t tell you how much we appreciate him and everything that he’s done. He’ll leave his imprint on this organization for years to come.”

When Ainge was asked a similar question, Wyc Grousbeck interjected.

“Danny came and said it was time,” Grousbeck said. “It was completely his decision with no support whatsoever from ownership in making that decision. None was offered. No support was offered except for wishing him the best once it became clear that was his decision.”

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Ainge, who joined the franchise in 2003, became President of Basketball Operations after Red Auerbach’s death in 2006. He helped the Celtics build a contender in 2007, trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen who joined Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins. That team won a title and was competitive for years.

As the Big Three era wound down, Ainge re-shuffled and built a talented new team around draft picks and young players that included Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. His big swing — a shot at a super-team featuring Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis — fell apart when Irving left Boston in the summer of 2019, but hitting on Tatum and Brown left the Celtics in a good place going forward.

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In 2019, however, Ainge suffered a heart attack, which forced him to reconsider his priorities and what he wanted to accomplish.

“You’re surrounded by your six children in the hospital and they’re saying, ‘Hey, you need to quit doing this for work, it’s causing you too much stress,'” Ainge said. “That’s probably when I started thinking about it. And these last two years have been tough. In the bubble and all the rules and scrutiny and protocols that we had to go through has not made the job as much fun.

“I don’t know if there was a moment in time but like I said earlier, I trust my instincts and my instincts told me a couple months ago that it was time for me to move on and that’s what’s best for us — that’s what’s best for the Celtics.”

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Ainge added that he deeply appreciated the support from Celtics ownership.

“It’s rare in this business where there’s so much public scrutiny about every decision you make where you come in, and you leave 18 years later and you’re closer and better friends than when you came in,” Ainge said. “… That will never end. That’s what I’m most proud of, is relationships.”

Ainge paused for a moment.

“Looking forward to the next chapter,” he concluded. “Looking forward to the next chapter for the Celtics and for us.”

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