Taking a Trip Through Each Year of Danny Ainge’s Career as Celtics President of Basketball Operations

While the search is still on for the new coach of the Celtics, there are big shoes to fill in Boston after the team’s latest news. Almost a week ago Boston’s playoff run came to a halt with an off-court loss to follow.

Last Wednesday the club announced that president Danny Ainge is retiring and coach Brad Stevens will be taking over in the front office. 

Before his GM position in Boston, Danny Ainge was a professional baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays for three seasons. He was then drafted by the Celtics and began a 14-year career in the NBA. Throughout his career, he played with the Celtics, Kings, Trail Blazers, and Suns. However, Ainge seemed to shine most in Boston. As a player on the C’s, he had four NBA finals appearances and won two championships (1984, 1986).

The previous president of the Celtics also had a successful coaching role on his resume as he joined Boston’s front office, coaching the Suns for three seasons and leading them to a playoff berth each year. 

Danny Ainge became Boston’s GM in 2003 and held that position for the last 18 years. In those 18 seasons, the Celtics have won a championship, had two finals appearances, and only missed the playoffs three times. 


In the early years of Danny Ainge’s reign as president of the Celtics, they lost in the first round of the Eastern Conference for two consecutive years and then missed the playoffs in the next two. In 2007, the C’s had a winning percentage of only .293. 

However, Ainge proved his leadership skills that same year when he traded Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, and draft picks to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett. Despite this move being highly criticized, securing the now Hall of Famer completely changed the path of Boston’s following season. 


The Celtic’s golden year came after a season of only 24 wins. In 2008, they finished first in their conference and division with a .805 record and won a championship. Along with a national title, Boston collected additional awards that year. Newcomer, Kevin Garnett, won DPOY, Paul Pierce won FMVP, and Danny Ainge himself won EOY. This complete turnaround for Boston helped Ainge prove he knew how to lead an organization. 


While there weren’t any championship repeats in the following years, Boston continued to maintain a record over .500 for the next five seasons and prove that their rebuild was successful. They also continued to place first in the Atlantic Division for the next four. The C’s also made fair playoff runs in each of these years, including the semifinals twice and the finals once. 


The former years of this period were less satisfactory for Boston fans, with the team starting to find itself lower in the standings and out by the first round of playoffs. However, Danny Ainge continued to build his trading reputation and made seven trades in 2015, with four of them being in one week.

He also made a last-minute play for Isaiah Thomas in a three-team deal, which proved to be a smart move after the All-Star helped lead the C’s back to first place in the East in 2017 and the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Danny Ainge continued to make big moves in 2017, a trade for Kyrie Irving and another that helped Boston draft Jayson Tatum, a key player in today’s roster. 


The last years of Danny Ainge’s career as GM were filled with playoff runs and over .500 records. From 2018 to 2020, Boston made it to the Eastern Conference finals twice. 

While Danny Ainge began to slow down on trades, he did make some key ones for Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, two players who have added strong skills to a roster with Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart. 

What’s Next?

While Danny Ainge has retired as president of the Celtics organization, we look forward to seeing how Brad Stevens’ perspective as head coach can guide Boston to another championship from the front office.

With trades beginning in the next few months, will Stevens follow Ainge’s relentless trading style or set Boston up for a new style of managing? 

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