“Basketball is like war in that offensive weapons are developed first, and it takes awhile for the defense to catch up.”
Arnold “Red” Auerbach; Legendary Head Coach, General Manager, and President of the Boston Celtics
Red Auerbach won nine NBA Championships as Head Coach of the Boston Celtics. He presided over seven other Championship teams as the Celtics General Manager. Very few people know that prior to becoming the Celtics Coach, he coached the Washington Capitols and Tri-Cities Blackhawks.
Auerbach drafted the NBA’s first African-American player (Chuck Cooper); he was the first coach to have his starting line-up composed of five African-American players and he was the first General Manager in the four major team sports to hire an African-American Head Coach (Bill Russell).
Only Phil Jackson (11) has won more NBA titles as a head coach than Red Auerbach. One major difference: Auerbach also was responsible for signing, drafting and trading players.
Auerbach was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969.
Red Auerbach’s Celtic defense “caught up” when Bill Russell joined the team. Auerbach had some good teams in the early and mid 1950’s; however, he realized that he needed a dominant “big man” to win a Championship. Auerbach traded two fine players in Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan for the draft rights to Bill Russell.
Russell revolutionized the game with his shot blocking and outstanding defensive play. Even though I was not a Celtics fan, I greatly admired Auerbach, Russell and the Celtics. They were unselfish and placed an emphasis on team play instead of individual accomplishment. To me, teamwork is the essence of life and the Boston Celtics, with great teamwork, won Championship after Championship.
Red Auerbach could be ornery to officials and often got thrown out of games. He did treat his players with great respect. He was a master psychologist who always asked for his players input. Bill Russell said Auerbach was the best “listener” he ever had met.
Auerbach made so many great moves regarding player personnel over the years. In addition to securing the right to draft Russell, drafting players like Dave Cowens and Larry Bird and trading for Robert Parish and Kevin McHale are a few of his gems.
Auerbach rubbed a lot of people the wrong way when he lit his victory cigar on the bench. He certainly lit it often winning eight straight Championships and nine in ten years.
Auerbach had so many great qualities and was very shrewd. It should be pointed out that nobody can be right all the time. When Bob Cousy came out of Holy Cross in 1950, Auerbach had just become the Celtics Coach. There was a lot of pressure from fans to draft Cousy since he was an exciting player and from nearby Worcester.
Auerbach had tremendous self confidence and his response was, “I don’t want that local yokel.” Auerbach got his way; the Celtics did not draft Cousy. However Cousy became a Celtic when the Chicago Staggs folded. Auerbach and Cousy formed a tremendous bond and Cousy became a great player.
Red Auerbach was very smart and in this instance very lucky, too.