BOSTON, May 9 (UPI) -- Danny Ainge, who played for the Boston Celtics from 1981-89, was named Friday as the team's executive director of basketball operations.
A former coach of the Phoenix Suns, Ainge has expressed a desire to run an NBA franchise and now gets that opportunity with the team for which he helped win titles in 1984 and 1986.
"It's great to be back in Boston," Ainge said. "This is one of the greatest challenges in my life and I'm looking forward to it."
Ainge, 44, had two meetings with the Celtics' new owners over the past week. Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca are part of the ownership group that bought the team from Paul Gaston this season.
For more than five years, Ainge and Pagliuca have sat on the board of the Forever Young Foundation, a charity for underprivileged children.
"The new ownership group had enough faith and confidence in me and I'm going to do what I can to make an impact for them," Ainge said.
The Celtics are the NBA's most successful franchise with 16 titles, but last won the championship in 1986 -- when Ainge was the starting shooting guard on a team that featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson.
Last season, the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to New Jersey and are in danger of losing to the Nets again, this time in the conference semifinals. Boston faced a 0-2 deficit going into Friday night's meeting with the Nets.
"I use a golf analogy for taking over a playoff team that's trying to take the next step opposed to a team starting from scratch making the playoffs," said Ainge, an avid golfer. "To me, it's easy to go from 100 to 85, but it's harder to go from 75 to 70 or 70 to 65."
The hiring of Ainge likely will diminish the power of Celtics General Manager Chris Wallace, who is under contract through 2006. With the Celtics in the postseason, Wallace is on a European scouting trip in preparation for the June draft.
Red Auerbach, who coached the Celtics to nine titles, including a record eighth straight from 1959-66, is the team president.
"I am very happy he accepted the position with us," Auerbach said. "I know that it will be a great relationship because Danny is a worker. He has a great personality, he's smart and bleeds green."
Auerbach lured Ainge away from major league baseball and signed him for the 1981-82 season. Ainge spent eight years with the Celtics and set an NBA record for three-pointers in a season in 1988, when he was named to the All-Star team.
Ainge also played for the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix in his 14-year career before joining the Suns as an assistant prior to the 1996-97 season.
Following an 0-8 start, he was promoted to coach and guided them to a 40-34 record. Ainge spent the next two-plus seasons as coach and compiled a 136-90 record before stepping down in December 1999.
He then went into television and has been an analyst for the TNT cable broadcasts.