Here are some more great stories from Heinsohn, Don't you Ever Smile? by Tommy Heinsohn. First up is a story from the playoffs between the Hawks and the Celtics that involves Red Auerbach.
Red somehow stimulated emotional frenzy wherever he went. I think he did it deliberately to motivate us. I guess it must have worked, because the Celtics became the best road team for many years. Red triggered the booing, and we played better when we were booed. St Louis was on his must beat list because he dearly loved to irritate Kerner. He had coached for Ben and supposedly they fell out because Kerner had traded some players without Red's knowledge. I think one was Jack Nichols, who later became a Celtic and played fur us in the 1957 championship series against the Hawks. Red said he quit, I heard Kerner fired him. Let's put it this way: Red no longer was in the Tri-Cities. There was no doubt bad feelings still existed when the Celtics and Hawks played for the championship some six years later. We both had fine teams. We won our division and the Hawks won theirs. We had taken a 2-1 lead in the series, and Alex Hanum, the player-coach, I am sure had promised Kerner the Hawks would get even at home in the fourth game. They did crazy things in those days to psych the other team, such as give the visitors the dirty, old, shiny basketballs while the home team practiced with new ones. Sometimes there wouldn't be enough air in the balls to warm up. Sharman walked over to the bench while we were shooting around and told Auerbach the basket was low. Sharman was the Bill Bradley of his time. Both could tell the air pressure in the ball by squeezing and the height of the hoop by shooting. They weren't so quick reaching for dinner checks, but that's something else. "Are you sure?" asked Red, needlessly. "Yeah," said Sharman, "It's about an inch low." Auerbach proceeded to request that the height of the basket be measured, his privilege under the rules. Kerner came running out from somewhere and accused Red of trying to psych his players and the fans. One obscene word led to another. Auerbach, being a gentle and subtle individual, punched Kerner right in the mouth before the game even started. That was the basis for the Hawks-Celtics rivalry becoming white hot after it had only been a sizzler. At another game, REd, trying hard to always project an austere image, was hit smack on his bald head by an egg that dripped down his face as he stood there doing the kind of burn Edgar Kennedy made famous in the movies. Red's dignity was splattered and so was my uniform. "Red," I told him, trying to be funny for a change, "I'm not standing near you anymore." He looked like an omelet.
Here is another story about riding to the games with Red. Red was not only the coach, but the GM,equipment manager and chauffeur. That should be taken into consideration when talking about who the greatest coach in the NBA is. Coaches today have it pretty easy. They just have to coach.
In all honesty the amazing thing about the Celtics was the team pride Auerbach developed. I don't know how he did it because Red could be harsh and abrasive in his own way, but General MacArthur didn't create more determination and togetherness when he promised that he and his troops would return. I think the Celtics respected Auerbach because he was the Celtics and they sincerely believed he knew what he was doing. Except, of course, when he was driving. Red was Evel Knievel before his time. If Red could have jumped a car over the Grand Canyon he would have done it without thinking - which was the way he drove. His reputation preceded him to the point where everyone suggested he had another ride whenever Red extended an invitation. Gene Conley made the mistake of joining the coach one time when we were on an exhibition tour before the season. Generally, the rookies were the only ones who would ride with Red because they were in no position to turn him down. We all knew when we were going to exhibition games, never to get into a car with Auerbach. We probably should have had the right of refusal written into our contracts, but we never thought of it. The Players' Association was not that strong in those days anyway. Conley had been away for five years working his pitching skilles and had absolutely no power position when he returned to the Celtics in 1958-59. We headed for Maine for our first exhibition game. If you've ever gone up the Maine Turnpike in October, you know how foggy it can get. The fog rolled in from the ocean and blanketed the meadows and the road. There was nothing a normal person could do but be extremely cautious. Red, not being a normal person behind the wheel, was not bothered by such conservative practices as driving carefully. He proceeded to go eighty five miles an hour through the velvet curtain. Conley froze in his seat. "The man's crazy," he said to the only person in the car to whom he had the courage to say it - himself. It was as though Red was trying to qualify at Indianapolis. His only guide was the white divider in the middle of the road, and he followed it without deviation. In his mind, the line represented radar and, therefore, he was not driving blind. Conley was. He was afraid to open his eyes. Once in a while he peeked out of fear but saw nothing. He even found it tough seeing the white line that Red was using as a steering beam. There was one thing Gene managed to see for a fleeting moment. A Howard Johnson building zipped by extremely close on his side. Auerbach never blinked. He was following the white line and never noticed he had just driven through the Howard Johnson's parking lot and out the other side.
Finally, here is another story about Red's driving and an apple war on the way to a game.
I'll never forget the time we had an apple war. Come on. You never heard of an appele war? Through a lapse of memory or at the point of a gun, I was driving with Auerbach that day. It was another of our trips through the countryside on the way to an exhibition game. Whenever we had time to waste, we would play an intellectual game called Zit. It worked this way: If you saw a cemetary and identified it first, you got a point. If you were first to see a dog, you got a point. Anytime you saw a dog lifting its leg, you got five points. Anyime you saw two dogs making love, you hit the jackpot. You would have to yell "cemetery" or "dog" and you automatically won the game. Forget that we all were supposed to be college graduates - it was better than playing ghost or word games. It was an ideal time consumer for the two hundred mile drive to Pittsfield, Massachusetts. We called time to buy a bushel of apples that we split with Cousy and the other guys. We resumed playing Zit, at high stakes - lunch to the winner. We were having a great time driving through the mountains, taking bites of apples and tossing them out the window. Such luxury. Suddenly, Cousy pulled from behind us, drove his car along side, and there was a broadside of apples. It became a war on the highway - like pirate ships side by side firing at each other. It was Auerbach's car against Cousy's car and some battle. Red was weaving all over the white line and Cooz was hugging the inside. Some guys took bites and heaved the apples like hand grenades with proper sound effects. Everyone was laughing and screaming and then we heard a different but familiar sound: "Rrrrrrr!" It sounded like a cop's car. It was a cop's car. The cop pulled along side Red's car and motioned him over, but Cousy kept going, the master of the fast bread, as usual. "What the hell do you guys think your doing?" said the cop. "Well," said Red, innocently, "we were playing Zit." Auerbach had to find the one cop along the highway to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who had never played Zit. The cop never even heard of it. Red changed directions on him. "Officer," said Red, turning on the charm, "I'm sorry. I'm Red Auerbach, coach of the Boston Celtics. I know I'm wrong." The cop wasn't impressed at all. He invited Red to follow him to the house of the Justice of the Peace. We had to drive up the mountain, through back roads, to get to the man's house. He was the judge, of cours, and the cop explained that Red had been speeding over the white line and acting as though he had been drinking. "They were throwing apples," addded the cop. "Throwing apples?" said the judge as though he might have had a case for the resident psychiatrist. "We were having an apple war," elaborated Red, figuring the judge would understand that. He didn't, so Red had to back track and explain that we had been playing Zit and what that was, and we were driving along just having fun and killing time, which accounted for the apple war. At that point, Mr Auerbach was not my candidate for defense counsel. I figured we would all wind up killing time in a dirty jail. Certainly, Red deserved it, but somehow he escaped only to make it another time at an other place.
The last anecdote is a continuation of the previous one. Tony Allen wasn't the first Celtic arrested for assault and battery. Tommy tells the story about Red's brush with the law.
On that occasion, we were in Cincinnati for a regular season game and had just won a close one. We were heading for the dressing room when there was a commotion. A rather large one, to be accurate. We kept right on going, the safest thing when bad buys are in the wrong corral. Auerbach came in after we reached the locker room and yelled: "That guy better not do that again!" What happened, Red? "That guy took a swing at me," he said. "He kicked me. I took a swing at him. I knocked his glasses off and knocked him right on his can. He can't do that to me. I took care of him, okay." We were impressed. We went back to the hotel and two policemen showed up in the lobby. "Where's Red Auerbach?" "I don't know where he is," they were told. Just then Red walked out of the elevator. "Are you Red Auerbach," the cops asked nicely. "Yes," he said modestly. "You're under arrest," they said not so modestly. "For what?" asked Red, shaken. "Assault and battery," said the cops. "The guy hit me," said Red, scared. "I never hit the guy." All of a sudden he was a devout pacifist. Nevertheless, they took him off to jail and locked him up. Cousy and Buddy Leroux went with him for moral support and came back to the hotel without him. "We need three hundred dollars to bail him out," announced Cousy. "He hasn't any money on him. If we don't raise the money, he has to stay in jail. Some considered that the best offer we might get. "Don't bail him out," I suggested. "Yeah," said Cousy, recognizing the practicality of the rare opportunity to get Auerbach. "Let's leave him overnight. He's got no television. He can't send out for Chinese food. He's got no cigars. It'll kill him. We decided that valor was not the best part of a practical joke at Red's expense under prison conditions. "I've only got twenty-five dollars," I said, opening the bids. We raised the three hundred dollars somehow and finally got Red out of jail around three in the morning. Red got in touch with me after breakfast. "You're going to have to testify," he said. "Testify to what?" I asked. "You've got to testify that this guy kicked me," he said. He was frightened and I loved it. "I didn't see the guy kick you, Red," I told him innocently. "I wasn't even there when it happened." He glared at me. It never was difficult to know when Red was getting mad. "You saw the guy kick me." he said, almost shouting while emphasizing you and kick. He was tampering with a witness, but I was sure he, at least, would never squeal. "I did see the guy kick you?" I asked. "Didn't you see the guy kick me?" he asked, daring me to deny it once more. "Yeah, I saw that guy kick you." I agreed, delivering the proper message. He nodded. To make sure, our little godfather said: "If you don't want to end up in Minneapolis, you saw the guy kick me." I never did have to commit perjury under duress. They settled out of court.
I hope you are enjoying these anecdotes from Tommy's book. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good book to read.
That is interesting. I really have been enjoying reading these books from Celtics history. Some fascinating stuff. Russell talks alot about Chamberlain and their rivalry in his book Second Wind, but I never saw that quote.