- Red Auerbach
name = Arnold Jacob "Red" Auerbach
caption = Auerbach speaking after being honored with the Lone Sailor Award on October 25, 2006
birth_date = birth date|mf=yes|1917|9|20|mf=y
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
death_date = death date and age|mf=yes|2006|10|28|1917|9|20
Washington, D.C., U.S.|
occupation = Hall of Fame NBA coach
spouse = Dorothy Lewis
children = Nancy Auerbach Collins, Randy Auerbach
Arnold Jacob "Red" Auerbach (September 20, 1917 – October 28, 2006) was a
basketballcoach of the Washington Capitols, the Tri-Cities Blackhawksand the Boston Celtics. After he retired from coaching, he served as president and front office executive of the Celtics until his death. As a coach, he won 938 games (a record at his retirement)cite web | last=May | first=Peter| title= Auerbach, pride of the Celtics, dies |url= http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/articles/2006/10/29/auerbach_pride_of_celtics_dies/|accessdate=2007-07-10 |publisher=Boston.com ] and 9 National Basketball Association(NBA) championships, a coaching record shared with Phil Jackson. As general manager and team president of the Celtics, he won an additional 7 NBA titles, for a grand total of 16 in a span of 29 years, making him one of the most successful team officials ever in the history of North American professional sports.cite web | title=Red Auerbach biography|url=http://www.jockbio.com/Classic/Red/Red_bio.html|accessdate=2007-07-10 |publisher=JockBio.com ]
Beyond trophies, Auerbach is remembered as a pioneer of modern basketball, redefining basketball as a game dominated by team play and tough defense rather than individual feats and high scoring and introducing the
fastbreakas a potent offensive weapon. He groomed many players who went on to be inducted in the Basketball Hall of Famebut more importantly, Auerbach was vital in breaking down color barriers in the NBA. He made history by drafting the first African-AmericanNBA player in Chuck Cooper (1950), and introduced the first fully black starting five in 1964.cite web | last=Ryan | first=Bob | title= Red was just full of color|url= http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/articles/2006/10/30/red_was_just_full_of_color/ | accessdate=2007-07-10|publisher=Boston.com ] Famous for his polarizing nature, he was also well-known for smoking victory cigars when he thought a game was decided, a habit that became cultin Boston.
For his feats, Auerbach received a multitude of honors. In 1967, the
NBA Coach of the Yearaward, which he had won in 1965, was named the "Red Auerbach Trophy", and Auerbach was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969. In 1980, he was named the greatest coach in the history of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America,cite web|url=http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/29/sports/basketball/29auerbach.html?ex=1319774400&en=5a9ed5bdbc403098&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss|title="Red Auerbach, Who Built Basketball Dynasty, Dies at 89"|accessdate=2007-07-10|publisher= The New York Times] and was NBA Executive of the Yearin 1981. In addition, Auerbach was voted one of the NBA 10 Greatest Coaches in history, was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and is honored with a retired number-2 jersey in the TD Banknorth Garden, the home of the Boston Celtics.
Arnold Jacob Auerbach was born as one of four children of Marie and Hyman Auerbach. Hyman was a
Russian Jewishimmigrant from Minsk, and Marie Auerbach, née Thompson, was American-born. Auerbach Sr. had left Russia when he was 13, and the couple owned a deliand later went into the dry cleaning business. Little Arnold spent his whole childhood in Williamsburg, Brooklynplaying basketball. Given his flaming red hair and fiery temper, he was soon nicknamed "Red".
In the midst of the
Great Depression, Auerbach Jr. played basketball at PS 122 and in the Eastern District High School, but with his relative diminutive height of 5-9 and his asthma, he never was really successful. His only achievement was being named "Second Team All-Brooklyn by the World-Telegram" in his senior year. Upon graduating in 1935, Auerbach planned to go into basketball coaching. After several rejections due to relatively low academic scores, Bill Reinhart of George Washington Universityaccepted Auerbach into his basketball program in Washington, D. C.. Auerbach became a standout basketball player and graduated with a M.A. in 1941. In those years, Auerbach began to understand the importance of the fastbreak, appreciating how potent a quick attack with three charging attackers versus two back-pedalling defenders would be.
First coaching years (1941-50)
In 1941, Auerbach began coaching basketball at the
St. Albans Schooland Roosevelt High School. Two years later, he joined the US Navy for three years, coaching the Navy basketball team in Norfolk. There, he caught the eye of Washington millionaire Mike Uline, who hired him to coach the Washington Capitolsin the newly-founded Basketball Association of America(BAA), a predecessor of the NBA.
1946-47 BAA season, Auerbach led a fastbreak-oriented team built around early BAA star Bones McKinneyand various ex-Navy players to a 49–11 win-loss record, including a standard-setting 17 game winning streak that stood as the league record until 1969. In the playoffs however, they were defeated by the Chicago Stagsin six games.cite web|url=http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/auerbach_red.html|title=Auerbach's Celtics played as a team|last=Hilton|first=Lisette|accessdate=2007-07-10|publisher=ESPN.com]
The next year the Capitols went 28–20 but were eliminated from the playoffs in a one-game Western Division tie-breaker. In the
1948-49 BAA season, the Caps won their first 15 games (still a league record start) and finished the season at 38–22. The team reached the BAA Finals, but were beaten by the Minneapolis Lakers, who were led by Hall-of-Fame center George Mikan. In the next season, the BAA and the rival league National Basketball League merged to become the NBA, and Auerbach felt he had to rebuild his squad. However, owner Uline declined his proposals, and Auerbach resigned.
Auerbach was then approached by Ben Kerner, owner of the
Tri-Cities Blackhawks. After getting a green light to rebuild the team from scratch, Auerbach traded more than two dozen players in just six weeks, and the revamped Blackhawks improved, but ended the 1949-50 NBA seasonwith a losing record of 28–29. When Kerner traded Auerbach's favorite player John Mahnken, an angry Auerbach resigned again.
Boston Celtics (1950-2006)
The early years (1950-56)
Prior to the
1950-51 NBA season, Auerbach was approached by Walter Brown, owner of the Boston Celtics. Brown was desperate to turn around his struggling and financially strapped franchise which was reeling from a terrible 22–46 record. So, the still young but already seasoned Auerbach was made coach. In the 1950 NBA Draft, Auerbach made some notable moves. First, he famously snubbed Hall-of-Fame New England point guard Bob Cousyin the 1950 NBA Draft, infuriating the Boston crowd. He argued that the flashy Cousy was too air-headed to make his team, taunting him as a "local yokel." Second, he drafted African-American Chuck Cooper, the first black player to be drafted by an NBA club.cite web|url=http://www.aaregistry.com/african_american_history/1175/Chuck_Cooper_one_of_the_NBAs_first_Black__players|title=Chuck Cooper, one of the NBA's first Black players|accessdate=2007-08-21|publisher=The African American Registry ] With that, Auerbach effectively broke down the color barrierin professional basketball.
In that year, the core of the Celtics consisted of Hall-of-Fame center
Ed Macauley, Auerbach's old favorite McKinney and an unlikely addition, Bob Cousy. Cousy had refused to report to the club which drafted him (ironically, Auerbach's old club, the Blackhawks), and because his next team (the Chicago Stags) folded, he ended up with the Celtics. With Auerbach's fastbreak tactics, the Celtics scored a 39–30 record, but lost in the 1951 NBA Playoffsto the New York Knicks. However, the relationship between Auerbach and Cousy improved when the coach saw that the "Houdini of the Hardwood"—as the spectacular dribbler and flashy passer Cousy was lovingly called—became the first great playmakerof the NBA.
In the following
1951-52 NBA season, Auerbach made a remarkable draft pick, namely future Hall-of-Fame guard Bill Sharman. With the high-scoring Macauley, elite passer Cousy and new prodigy Sharman, Auerbach had a core which provided high-octane fastbreak basketball. Other notable players who joined were forwards Frank Ramseyand Jim Loscutoff. In the next years until 1956, the Celtics would make the playoffs every year, but never won the title. In fact, the Celtics often choked in the playoffs, going a mere 10–17 in the postseason from 1951 through 1956. As Cousy put it: "We would get tired in the end and could not get the ball."cite web | last=Shouler | first=Ken |url= http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/feature/featureVideo?page=auerbach
title=The Consummate Coach| accessdate=2007-07-10|publisher=ESPN.com] As a result, Auerbach sought a defensive big man who could both get easy rebounds, initiate fastbreaks and close out games.
The dynasty (1956-67)
1956 NBA Draft, Auerbach had already set his sights on defensive rebounding center Bill Russell. Via a draft-day trade that sent Macauley and rookie Cliff Haganto the rival St. Louis Hawks, he finally acquired a center in Russell, who would go on to become a Hall-of-Famer. In the same draft, Auerbach also picked up forward Tom Heinsohnand guard K.C. Jones, two further Hall-of-Famers. Emphasizing team play rather than individual performances and stressing that defense was more important than offense, Auerbach drilled his players to play tough defense and force opposing turnovers for easy fastbreak points. Forward Tom Sandersrecalled that the teams were also regularly among the best-conditioned and toughest squads.
Anchored by defensive stalwart Russell, the tough Celtics forced their opponents to take low-percentage shots from farther distances; misses were then often grabbed by perennial rebounding champion Russell, who then either passed it on to elite fastbreak distributor Cousy or made the outlet pass himself, providing their sprinting colleagues opportunities for an easy
slam dunkor layup. Auerbach also emphasized the need for role players like Frank Ramseyand John Havlicek, who became one of the first legitimate sixth men in NBA history, a role later succeeded by Don Nelson. Auerbach's recipe proved devastating for the opposition. From 1956 to 1966, the Celtics won nine of ten NBA championships. This included eight consecutive championships—which formed the longest championship streak in North American sports—and beating the Los Angeles Lakersof Hall-of-Famers Elgin Baylorand Jerry Westsix times in the NBA Finals. Perhaps most notably, this also included denying perennial scoring and rebounding champion Wilt Chamberlainany chance of winning a title during Auerbach's coaching reign.cite web | last=Feinstein | first=Ron | title= Red Auerbach: True Stories and NBA Legends|url= http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4137301| accessdate=2007-07-10|publisher=npr.com ]
Flowing from Auerbach's emphasis on teamwork, what was also striking about his teams was that they never seemed to have a dominant scorer: in the
1960-61 NBA seasonfor instance, the Celtics had six players who scored between 15 and 21 points, but none made the Top 10 scoring list. Auerbach also firmly believed in breaking down color barriers in the NBA. In 1964, he sent out the first-ever NBA starting five consisting of an African-American quintet, namely Russell, Willie Naulls, Tom Sanders, Sam Jones and K. C. Jones. Auerbach would go a step further in the 1966-67 NBA season, when he stepped down after winning nine titles in 11 years, and made Bill Russell coach. Auerbach also popularized smoking a victory cigar whenever he thought a game was already decided, a habit that became cultin the Boston area. Furthermore, having acquired a reputation as a fierce competitor, he often got into verbal altercations with officials, receiving more fines and getting ejected more often than any other coach in NBA history.
All in all, Auerbach coached nine championship teams directly and mentored 4 players, Russell, Sharman, Heinsohn and K.C. Jones who would go on to win an additional 7 NBA championships as coaches (two each for Russell, Heinsohn and Jones, all with the Celtics and one for Sharman, with the
Lakers). Nine players who played for Auerbach have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Famenamely Ramsey, Cousy, Sharman, Heinsohn, Russell, K. C. Jones, Havlicek, Sam Jones and Bailey Howell. Although Don Nelson only played for Auerbach's last year as coach, his influence is profound: Nelson would later join Auerbach as one of the 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA history,. Sharman would become one of only three people to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. Few, if any, coaches can match Auerbach's record of wins and successful mentorship of his players.
General manager (1967-1984)
Prior to the
1966-67 NBA season, Auerbach announced his retirement as a coach and named his successor, Bill Russell. Russell took over as a player-coach and so became the first African-Americancoach in the NBA. While his pupil led the Celtics to two further titles in 1968 and 1969, Auerbach rebuilt the aging Celtics with shrewd draft picks, among them future Hall-of-Famers Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, Paul Westphaland Don Chaney. With his ex-player Tom Heinsohn coaching the Celtics and led by former sixth man John Havlicek, Auerbach's new recruits won the Atlantic Division every year from 1972 to 1976, winning the NBA title in 1974 and 1976. Further notable Auerbach signings were veteran center Paul Silasand ex- ABAstar Charlie Scott.
However, Auerbach could not prevent the Celtics going into a slump at the end of the 1970s. When scoring champion Havlicek retired in 1978, the Celtics went 61–103 in two seasons. But in 1979, Boston's fortunes changed when Auerbach set his eyes on talented college player
Larry Bird. Despite knowing that Bird had a year of college eligibility remaining, he drafted him in the 1978 NBA Draftand waited for a year until the future Hall-of-Fame forward Bird finally arrived. Auerbach immediately sensed that the brilliant, hardworking Bird would be the cornerstone of a new Celtics generation.
In 1980, Auerbach made another great coup. He convinced the
Golden State Warriorsto trade him a #3 overall pick and future Hall-of-Fame center Robert Parishin exchange for the #1 pick in the draft, namely Joe Barry Carroll, who went on to have an unremarkable career. With the #3 pick, Auerbach selected the player he most wanted in the draft, Kevin McHale, who would also join the Hall of Fame. The frontcourtof Parish-McHale-Bird became one of the greatest frontlines in NBA history. Other valuable role players were M.L. Carr, veteran point guard Nate Archibaldand Gerald Henderson, and later Dennis Johnsonand Danny Ainge. Auerbach's hand-picked coach Bill Fitchled the revamped Celtics to the 1981 NBA title, and it was another Auerbach pupil, K.C. Jones, who continued with another title in 1984.
President and vice chairman (1984-2006)
In 1984, Auerbach quit general managing duties and became president and later vice-chairman of the Boston Celtics. When the Celtics took the 1986 title, it was Auerbach's 16th title, an unmatched feat in the NBA. However, in the next years, tragedy struck the Celtics. Sensing that the 1980s Celtics of Larry Bird needed fresh blood, Auerbach traded Henderson away for a the second overall draft pick, and picked college prodigy
Len Biasin the 1986 NBA Draft. But just two days later, Bias died of a cocaine overdose. Several years later, Celtics player Reggie Lewisdied suddenly in 1993, and the Celtics would not make another NBA Finals until after Auerbach's death.
In an interview, Auerbach confessed that he lost interest in big-time managing in the early 1990s, preferring to stay in the background and concentrating on his pastimes,
racquetballand his beloved cigar-smoking. He would, however, stay on with the Celtics as president until 1997, as vice chairman until 2001, and then became president again, a position he held until his death. although he grew visibly frail in his final years.cite web| title= A Tribute to Red|url= http://www.nba.com/news/auerbach_tribute.html
Auerbach was one of four children of American-born Marie Auerbach and
Russian Jewishimmigrant Hyman Auerbach in Brooklyn. His brother Zang Auerbach, four years his junior, was a respected cartoonist and portraitist at the " Washington Star". He married Dorothy Lewis in the spring of 1941 and fathered two daughters, Nancy and Randy.
Auerbach was known for his love for cigar smoking. Having made his victory cigars a cult in the 1960s, Boston restaurants would often say "no cigar or pipe smoking, except for Red Auerbach". In addition, Auerbach was well-known for his love of Chinese food. In an interview shortly before his death, he explained that since the 1950s, Chinese takeaway was the most convenient nutrition: back then, NBA teams travelled on regular flights and had a tight time schedule, so filling up the stomach with heavier non-Chinese food, meant wasting time and risking travel-sickness. Over the years, Auerbach became so fond of this food that he even became a part-owner of a Chinese restaurant in Boston.
Despite his fierce nature, Auerbach was popular among his players. He recalled that on his 75th birthday party, 45 of his ex-players showed up; and when he became 80, his perennial 1960s victim
Wilt Chamberlainshowed up, a gesture which Auerbach dearly appreciated.
In an interview with
ESPN, Auerbach stated that his all-time team would consist of Bill Russell - who in the former's opinion was the ultimate player to start a franchise - as well as Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertsonand Jerry West, with John Havlicekas the sixth man. Regarding greatest basketballers of all time, Auerbach's candidates were Russell, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordanand Robertson."
On October 28, 2006, Auerbach died of a
heart attack. NBA commissioner David Sternsaid "the void caused by his death will never be filled" and ex-players Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, John Havlicekand Larry Birdas well as contemporaries like Jerry West, Pat Rileyand Wayne Embryuniversally hailed Auerbach as one of the greatest personalities in NBA history.cite web | last=nba.com | first= | title= A Tribute to Red|url= http://www.nba.com/news/auerbach_tribute.html
date=2007-07-10 ] Auerbach was survived by his two daughters, Nancy and Randy. Auerbach was buried in Falls Church,
Virginiaat the King David Memorial Gardens / National Memorial Park on October 31, 2006.
2006-07 NBA season, Auerbach appeared posthumously in a series of NBA commercials where he breaks down formations like "3 on 2 situations" and "rebounding," and as a testament to his importance in the Boston sports world, the Boston Red Soxhonored Auerbach at their April 20th, 2007 game against the New York Yankeesby wearing green uniforms and by hanging replicated Celtics championship banners on the " Green Monster" at Fenway Park. Boston won 7-6.
Prior to Boston's season opener against the Wizards, his signature was officially placed on the parquet floor near center court, thereby naming the court as "Red Auerbach Parquet Floor." The ceremony was attended by his daughter Randy and some of the Celtics legends. The signature replaced the Red Auerbach memorial logo used during the 2007 season.
Among Auerbach's accomplishments during his 20-year professional coaching career were eleven Eastern Division titles (including nine in a row from 1957-1965), eleven appearances in the finals (including ten in a row from 1957-1966), and nine NBA championships. With a total of 16 NBA championship rings in a span of 29 years (1957-1986) as the Celtics coach, general manager, and team president, Auerbach is the most successful official in NBA history. He is credited with creating several generations of championship Boston Celtics teams, most notably the first Celtics dynasty with
Bill Russellwhich won an unprecedented eight titles in a row (1959-1966). As Celtics general manager, he created championship-winning teams around Hall-of-Famers Dave Cowensin the 1970s and Larry Birdin the 1980s.
In addition to coaching, Auerbach was a highly effective mentor; several players coached by Auerbach would become successful coaches themselves.
Bill Russellwon two titles as Auerbach's successor, Tom Heinsohnwon a pair of championships as a Celtics coach in the 1970s, K.C. Jonesled the Celtics to two further titles in the 1980s, and Bill Sharmancoached the Los Angeles Lakersto their first title in 1972. In addition, prototypical sixth man Don Nelsonhad a highly successful coaching career and joined his mentor Auerbach as one of 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA history.
In Auerbach's honor, the Celtics have retired a number-2 jersey with the name "AUERBACH," memorializing his role as the second most important Celtic ever, behind founder Walter Brown, in whose honor the number-1 "BROWN" jersey is retired.
From his early days, Auerbach was convinced that the
fastbreak, in which a team used a quick outlet pass to fast guards who run downcourt and score before the opponent had re-established position, was a potent tactical weapon. This new strategy proved lethal for the opposition. Further, Auerbach moved emphasis away from individual accolades and instilled the teamwork element into his players. He also invented the concept of the role player and of the sixth man, stating: "Individual honors are nice, but no Celtic has ever gone out of his way to achieve them. We have never had the league's top scorer. In fact, we won seven league championships without placing even one among the league's top 10 scorers. Our pride was never rooted in statistics."
While Auerbach was not known for his tactical bandwidth, famously restricting his teams to just seven plays, he was well-known for his psychological warfare, often provoking opposing players and officials with unabashed
trash talk. For his fiery temper, he was ejected more often and received more fines than any other coach in NBA history. Concerning his own team, Auerbach was softer. Earl Lloyd, the first black player to play in the NBA, said: "Red Auerbach convinced his players that he loved them […] so all they wanted to do was please him."
Color no barrier
Auerbach was known for choosing players for talent and motivation, with disregard for skin color or ethnicity. In 1950, he made NBA history by drafting the league's first
African-Americanplayer, Chuck Cooper. He constantly added new black players to his squad, including Bill Russell, Tom Sanders, Sam Jones, K.C. Jonesand Willie Naulls. In 1964, these five players became the first African-American starting five in the NBA. When Auerbach gave up coaching to become the Celtics general manager in 1966, he appointed Bill Russell as his successor. Russell became not only the first black NBA coach, but the very first African-Americancoach of a professional sports organization.Similarly, in the 1980s, as the Celtics GM, Auerbach fielded an earnest, hardworking team that was derided as being "too white." [http://www.bostonmagazine.com/articles/playing_through_the_pain] [http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=adande_ja&page=Celtics-071219&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab1pos1] While the 1980s Celts were, in actuality, neither predominantly white nor black, the NBA at the time was predominately black. White players like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, Bill Waltonand Dave Cowensplayed alongside Tiny Archibald, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, and Cedric Maxwellbringing three more championships in the '80s under coaches Bill Fitch (white) and K.C. Jones (black).
Arnold "Red" Auerbach Award
To honor Auerbach, the Celtics created the Arnold "Red" Auerbach award in 2006. It is an award given annually to the current Celtic player who "best exemplifies the spirit and meaning of what it is to be a Celtic. This award is named in honor of the legendary Coach, General Manager and President of the organization, Arnold 'Red' Auerbach."
Auerbach was the author of seven books. His first, "Basketball for the Player, the Fan and Coach", has been translated into seven languages and is the largest-selling basketball book in print. His second book, co-authored with Paul Sann, was "Winning the Hard Way". He also wrote a pair of books with
Joe Fitzgerald: "Red Auerbach: An Autobiography" and "Red Auerbach On and Off the Court". In October, 1991, "M.B.A.: Management by Auerbach", was co-authored with Ken Dooley. In 1994, "Seeing Red" was written with Dan Shaughnessy. In October 2004, his last book, "Let Me Tell You A Story", was co-authored with sports journalist John Feinstein.
* Obituary (January 19, 2007), "
Jewish Chronicle", p. 45
* [http://www.hoophall.com/halloffamers/bhof-red-auerbach.html Basketball Hall of Fame profile]
* [http://www.databasebasketball.com/coaches/coachpage.htm?coachid=AUERBRE01 Coaching Record]
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Auerbach, Arnold Jacob
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Hall of Fame basketball coach
DATE OF BIRTH=September 20, 1917
PLACE OF BIRTH=
Brooklyn, New York, United States
DATE OF DEATH=October 28, 2006
PLACE OF DEATH=
Washington, D.C., United States
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