BOSTON (CBS) — Brad Stevens made a name for himself with six solid years at Butler, and that success is what convinced Danny Ainge that Stevens would be the next great coach for the Boston Celtics.

There have been plenty of growing pains for Stevens and his Celtics in the year-plus that he’s been on the job, but don’t expect the head coach to bolt for the college ranks if an opportunity opens up. Ainge joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s  Toucher & Rich on Thursday for his weekly call into the show, and is confident that Stevens will be manning the Boston bench for the life of his contract.

“We have Brad under contract for six years and we’re planning on honoring our end, and I assume he is as well,” Ainge said. “I think Brad loves it in Boston and he is obviously a coach that wants to win more games than he is right now, but he loves the challenge of the NBA. He’s learning it every day and he’s going to be here to stay. I think he’ll be a long time NBA coach.”

One major issue with the 2014-15 Boston Celtics is their inability to close games, with Stevens’ team blowing a big lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers and squandering a late opportunity against the Phoenix Suns in the last week.

“I know that Brad is working extremely hard to try to figure out the best way to finish and which players to play, what plays to run and so forth. I think even good teams go through these [struggles], and we have a young group of guys who haven’t been together. We don’t have a finisher or closer like a lot of teams, like a Kevin Durant or LeBron James to just throw the ball to and create something. We have to do it by committee and do it collectively.

“We have to play the way we play for three quarters — with pace and equal opportunity basketball,” said Ainge. “We have to move the ball and if you’re open shoot it. We’ve been doing a really good job at that throughout the game until the very end. I think a lot of the guys are looking for Rondo too much. They have to take it upon themselves to take the shot when they’re open and stay aggressive throughout the 48 minutes, instead of just forcing him to be the guy who creates everything.”

Rondo was just 2-for-10 from the free throw line in Monday’s loss to Phoenix, and is shooting just 33 percent from the charity stripe this season. A career 62 percent shooter from the free throw line, Ainge thinks Rondo’s woes are in his head, and he’s happy to see his point guard aggressively trying to get to the line.

“There are two elements to it: Fundamentally and practicing on it. Those definitely happen. Rondo has been there late at night working on free throws,” said Ainge. “It’s something, as a coach, you can’t talk too much about because it’s more of a physiological thing for Rondo. He makes free throws regularly in practice; he’s going to make free throws and I’m not worried about it.

“It’s early in the season and I think he’s just in a free throw funk,” he added. “I’m encouraged that he was working so hard to get to the line. He’ll make free throws, I’m not worried about that.”

Celtics rookie point guard Marcus Smart is working his way back from a bad ankle sprain that sidelined him two weeks ago. There was some speculation that Smart could return to the lineup Sunday night when the Celtics host the Portland Trail Blazers, but Ainge thinks next week is more likely.

“It’s still sore; I’d be surprised if he was able to play this weekend,” he said. “Maybe sometime next week. He’s getting better, but he’s still probably at least a week away.”


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