AUBURN HILLS, MICH., MAY 30 -- Dave Gavitt, who helped bring the Big East Conference to prominence during the last decade, today was officially named head of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics.

The move had been rumored for a couple of weeks. The Celtics began their front-office housecleaning May 9 -- two days after they lost to the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs -- by firing Jimmy Rodgers as coach.

Gavitt's resignation as Big East commissioner is effective no later than Sept. 1, giving him time to put several affairs in order, including duties as president of USA Basketball, the sport's national governing body. He still is negotiating with the NBA to bring pro players into the Olympics and world championships.

"I've got complete authority to do what I have to do," Gavitt told Associated Press. "I've got tremendous resources to do that job. And one of the reasons I took this job is what it is, who it is and where it is. What it is is basketball at its highest form -- the NBA, the best players in the world, in . . . probably the best-run league in the world, at a time when, I believe, the game is ready to take off."

Gavitt will first have to hire a coach. Assistant Chris Ford is a leading candidate for the position. Gavitt must also decide whether to break up Boston's talented but aging roster, even though guard Brian Shaw will be back after a year playing in Italy.

During his 11 years as Big East Commissioner, the conference grew from a four-team beginning to nine schools. Its most public successes have come in basketball, in which Georgetown and Villanova have won national championships and Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Syracuse each have made the Final Four.

Though Gavitt occassionally was criticized for moving slowly to curb player fights, and for continuing to be the an analyst for conference games, his influence in creating one of the strongest conferences in the country is unquestioned.

Recently, he took on greater duties with the presidency of USA Basketball, the follow-up to ABA-USA. With Boris Stankovic, general secretary of FIBA, basketball's international governing organization, Gavitt has laid the groundwork for pro participation in the world championships next year and in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

"Probably his greatest contribution," Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo said, "is that he's placed us in the position we're in today. We have a great structure, we have an administrative structure overseeing every sport. . . . He's created a foundation for the future on which we can build and grow."

Rienzo, Seton Hall athletic director Larry Keating and St. John's vice president for athletics John Kaiser will sort through candidates and make a recommendation for a new commissioner to the conference's board of directors, but Rienzo said no deadline for doing so has been set.

"The Celtics understood that there were some unfinished agendas that he had with the conference," Rienzo said. "Dave understood that he had some things he needed to finish. The Celtics were kind enough and courteous enough to provide him with the opportunity.

"We should be able to put all the pieces in place by Sept. 1. . . . To have the luxury of dealing with that over the next three months requires the kind of timetable we wouldn't have if he had announced today that he was leaving June 1."

Before taking the Big East job, Gavitt was the long-time coach at Providence and the coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that did not participate because of the boycott.