In this portion of our look at Second Wind Memoirs of an Opinionated Man by Bill Russell, he talks a little about Red Auerbach and their relationship.
For all these reasons, our motivation had to increase a little each year, which made Red's job even tougher. We were always carrying the same amount of water up the hill, but with every championship and every year the hill got a little steeper. Red was running around behind us like a madman, cussing, screaming and cooing us to the top. He had to be a little crazy. Red and I had our own motivational dances and routines we'd go through, mostly in private. He yelled at me publicly only once - in a hotel in Yugoslavia, as I recall - and I yelled back twice as loud. It didn't work to yell at me, and he didn't have to anyway. The first half of my second season I played like a wild beast, helping the team to such a huge lead that nobody could hope to catch us in the regular season. Then Red called me into his office one day. This was to be my first pep talk, though I didn't know it at the time. "We've got the division sewed up already," he confided. "You know that as well as I do. I can understand that you're letting up a little bit because there's nothing to drive you. Well, you should be MVP in this league, and in this game you can't turn it on and off. You have to play all the time as well as you think you ever could. You know that. And I'd like to end the regular season winning big so that we won't have to do anything different in the playoffs." He went on and on, never raising his voice, alternating little morsels of flattery with appeals to my belief in excellence. That night I went out and broke the league record in rebounds. By Red's standards, everything he did to help motivate me was subtle. Over the years we worked out all kinds of gimmicks. He'd call me into his office and ask my permission to yell at me the next day in practice, just so the other Celtics wouldn't feel persecuted. I'd agree, and the next day he'd cuss me all up and down the floor so ferociously that his regular victims like Satch and Heinsohn would feel sorry for me. Or we'd trade favors. I'd call him up and say, "Hey, man, I don't feel like practicing today. My arthritis needs some treatment." I hated practice. "You want to go to the library, darling?" Red would growl. "I didn't say that." I'd laugh. "Okay," he'd say, "but you owe me one." A month or so later we'd be out on a road trip facing a game that Red wanted to win extra bad, and he'd call me over in the locker room. "You owe me one, right?" "Yeah." "Well, I want it tonight." And he'd get it. It was only fair. Over the years, Red worked me over regularly. He'd make a casual remark to me about how well someone on an opposing team was playing. I wouldn't say anything, but the remark would fester in my mind because I didn't think the guy was playing that well, so I'd work extra hard the next time we faced that player's team. Only later would it hit me that Red's remark hadn't been casual after all. Everything he did was calculated. As I got to know him better I'd laugh whenever he started telling me that Bill Bradley was the greatest college basketball player who'd ever played. This meant we had a big game coming up with the Knicks and Red wanted me to help Satch guard Bradley. We'd both know what was going on, but it didn't matter. Red didn't have to work hard to appeal to my pride because I was basically self motivated. I showed up ready for (almost) every game, and all I needed were occasional boosts. An unusually high percentage of the Celtics were the same, driven by something inside of them that didn't need much outside fuel. Cousy was that way, and so were Sharman, KC, Ramsey, and Havlicek. Sam Jones was a special case, but his motivation als depended largely on himself. There is no question in my mind that we won championships because so many of us had so much confidence that the air was thick with it.
And, here is a story that Bill relates about Sam Jones.
After a few seasons with the Celtics, I noticed that Sam Jones could take over a game too. He wouldn't do it the say Oscar did, or nearly as often, but sometimes he gave off a feeling that he simply would not let us lose this game. He'd shoot, steal and score layups and when the other team tried to gang up on him, he'd feed the rest of us for easy baskets. Sam took on a glow that said, "This game's over." But it only happened about one game in twenty, and I puzzled over it for a long time. I couldn't figure it out, so one day I asked, "Sam, why don't you play like that all the time?" "No, I don't want to do that," he said without the slightest hesitation. He knew exactly what I meant, and he'd already thought about it. "I don't want the responsibility of having to play like that every night." I was floored. "It would mean of money," I said. "I know," Sam replied, "But I don't want to do it." Sam knew how good he was, but he made a choice and lived with it. Many players since him have refused to make that choice; they want the star's money without the responsibility. While I believe that players should be paid as much as the market thinks them worth, I also think the star's money carries the extra load. I respected Sam's choice, but I didn't understand. One night when we were playing in St Louis he got the ball wide open at the foul line; nobody was near him, which is like giving the Celtics two points. But he just stood there two or three seconds and let the defense recover. None of us could believe what he'd seen. "Sam, why didn't you shoot?" I asked, as if I was about to cry. "Cause I couldn't see the bucket." "You what?" "I couldn't see the bucket," he repeated seriously, as though the statement made sense. "What do you mean you couldn't see the bucket!" I screamed. "I couldn't see it," he said. "The light was shining in my eyes, and I didn't like the way it looked." I kept waiting for him to laugh, but he was serious, so there was nothing to do but shrug my shoulders. When I first started coaching I called Sam over one day and said, "I want you to call the plays when you come up the court." It was routine assignment. "I can't call the plays," he said. Something was wrong. "What do you mean?" "I don't have the authority to call the plays," said Sam. I tried to control myself. "Sam," I said, "I'm the coach, and I just gave you the authority!" "Oh, no," he said, as if he'd caught me trying to pull a fast one. "You're the coach, but I still don't have the authority, so I can't call the plays." He looked at me as if he knew he was right. I don't know exactly how I looked back at him, but I couldn't think of any response that seemed right, so I sighed. "You're right Sam," I said quietly. 'You can't call the plays." I never could guess what Sam was going to do or say, with one major exception: I knew exactly how he would react in our huddle during the final seconds of a crucial game. I'm talking about a situation when we'd be one point behind, with five seconds to go in a game that meant not just first place or pride but a whole season, when everything was on the line. You're standing there feeling weak. The pressure weighs down on you so brutally that it crushes your heart as flat as a pizza, and you feel it thudding down around your stomach. During that time out the question will be who will take the shot that means the season, and Red would be looking around at faces, trying to decide what play to call. It's a moment when even the better players in the NBA will start coughing, tying their shoelaces and looking the other way. At such moments I knew what Sam would do as well as I know my own name. "Gimme the ball," he'd say. "I'll make it." And all of us would look at him and we'd know by looking that he meant what he said. Not only that, you knew that he'd make it. Sam would be all business, but there'd be a trace of a smile on his face, like a guy who was meeting a supreme test and was certain he'd pass it. "You guys get out of the way," he'd say.