The past ten days has held a bevy of firsts in the New England sporting world. For the first time in a century, Red Sox Nation can speak of a possible dynasty. For the first time in NFL history two undefeated teams with seven or more wins faced off, with New England getting their ninth win. There was the first game of the Celtics season which boasted the beginning of the Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen era. A game that also featured the unveiling of newly titled “Red Auerbach Parquet”. With the win at Toronto, the Celtics now have their first road win, their first OT win and their first winning streak of the season. Another first, one that brought heart ache and reflection rather than celebration and joy, took place on Sunday, October 28. Celtics Nation observed the first anniversary of Arnold Jacob Auerbach’s death, better known to us as Red. I know I’m not the only Celtics fanatic that still feels the vacancy left in the wake of the Celtic patriarch’s departure from this world, simply stated I miss the man.
Born September 20, 1917, in Brooklyn New York to Marie and Hyman Auerbach (Russian Jewish immigrants), Red was one of four children in the Auerbach household. Growing up, Red wasn’t afraid of confrontation and developed a reputation as a child to fight first only to make a friend shortly after, a trait that no doubt forged his legendary toughness. He possessed the rare coupling of street smarts and a hard work ethic. Traits he no doubt depended on when he would regularly relieve teams of their best talent for sub par talent in return.
In 1950, Red took over a Celtics franchise that had suffered significant financial troubles. Red was quick to stir the pot as he refused to draft local favorite out of Holy Cross, Bob Cousy. Cousy took a circuitous route, but eventually ended up where he belonged, in Boston. In the same draft in which he passed on Cousy, Red took Charlie Cooper during the April 25 NBA draft, making Cooper the first Black player to be drafted in the NBA. If you consider the historical context in which this pick was made, you can’t help but marvel at Red as, among other things, a pioneer. Six years later, the Boston Celtics perched their first of sixteen banners from the rafters. Reds devotion to task served the Celtics organization, as well as the National Basketball Association, well as Red turned the franchise around winning nine titles as a coach and seven more in the Celtics front office.
There are too many stories and accolades to be covered here today. If you’re a new Celtics fan, take the initiative and learn about the man we affectionately call Red. The more you get to know him, the more you understand and appreciate how great a franchise the Boston Celtics really are, and more importantly how fortunate we as fans were to share a little bit of it with Red. If ever asked to define or articulate what is Celtics Pride, and you find yourself at a loss for words, simply say “Red Auerbach”, nothing more needs to be said. Thank you Red for everything, you are missed.