BOSTON (CBS) — Danny Ainge stepped down as Celtics president of basketball operations on Wednesday morning, but it was not a decision he came to because the Celtics were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. It was a decision nearly two years in the making.

In what Celtics ownership called a bittersweet day, Ainge announced his retirement from the top of Boston’s totem pole, with Brad Stevens stepping in to run the show. Ainge said he began to think about leaving his position with the Celtics two years ago when he suffered a heart attack — his second during his 18 years in the Boston front office.

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“I started thinking about what I was doing with my life,” Ainge said Wednesday. “When you’re surrounded by your six children in the hospital and they tell you that you need to quit doing this, that’s when I started thinking about it. The last two years were tough, with the bubble, COVID protocols – it hasn’t been as much fun.

“I don’t know if there was a moment in time, but I trust my instincts,” he added. “My instincts told me a couple of months ago that it was time to move on. It’s what is best for us and best for the Celtics.”

Ainge wishes that his announcement came on a much better day for the Celtics — not less than 24 hours after the season came to a disappointing end after a first-round defeat. But even after a disappointing 2021 campaign, AInge says he’s leaving the Celtics in great hands, and the franchise still has a very bright future ahead.

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“I feel like there is so much hope for the Celtics going forward,” he said. “I’m excited for Brad. I think he was born for this. An Indiana kid, a basketball junkie. He’s smart, lives the game and has many resources and a great staff already in place. I think this is a big step forward.”

Ainge isn’t sure what his future holds at the moment, just that he’ll be playing a lot more golf now what the doesn’t have to worry about scouting and a salary cap. But that will also wait, as he’ll be preparing Stevens for his new role as head honcho of the Boston Celtics.

And don’t be surprised to see him courtside next season, either.

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“I’ll be hovering from a distance,” said Ainge, “yelling at refs for years to come.”

CBSBoston.com Staff