2012 have been Red Auerbach's 95th Birthday and is a good time for the
Celtics Nation to pause and remember the patriarch of the Celtics franchise.
Red once said:
"The Boston Celtics are not a basketball team, they are a way of life."
was a member of the National Basketball Association since its formation
in 1946 and was with the Celtics since 1950. For him, the Celtics truly
were a way of life. When the Celtics won the 2008 NBA championship, it
marked the first of the Celtics' 17 championships that Red wasn't there
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Red attended Eastern
District High School in that city, attended Seth Low Junior College in
New York, and George Washington University in the District of Columbia.
He played three years of college basketball at GWU, and was the team's
leading scorer and a defensive specialist. He received a Bachelor of
Science in Education in 1940 and a Master of Arts in Education from George Washington
the following year.
In 1941, Auerbach began coaching basketball
at the St. Albans School and Roosevelt High School. Two years later,
he joined the US Navy and served 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 Capitols in the
newly-founded Basketball Association of America (BAA), the predecessor of
the NBA. Auerbach spent the first three seasons of his pro career with
the Washington Capitols before moving on to the Tri-Cities Hawks for
one campaign. At this point, Walter Brown, who owned the struggling
Boston Celtics, appointed Auerbach as the man to lead the squad into
what would ultimately become the greatest franchise in pro basketball
Auerbach carefully crafted a competitive team, and his
moves culminated with an April 29, 1956 transaction that sent Easy Ed
Macauley and Cliff Hagan to St. Louis for the Hawks' first-round pick;
with that selection, the Celtics chose Bill Russell. This blockbuster
trade would spur the Celtics into the most dominant franchise in pro
basketball history and helped to create the legend of Red Auerbach as a
step above everyone else in the NBA. From 1950-1966, Auerbach coached
the Celtics to nine world titles, including eight in a row from
1959-1966. His incredible record was 938-479 (.662) in regular-season
play and an equally impressive 99-69 (.589) in post-season encounters.
Prior to the 1966-67 season, the "coach" removed himself from the bench
in order to concentrate on his duties as General Manager, and appointed
Bill Russell as player-coach.
With Red's guidance and knowledge,
the Celtics continued to win. In 1968 and 1969, the Celtics added two
more titles. After a down period in the early 1970s, Auerbach
restructured the team, adding key personnel through trades and the
draft, and ultimately raised banners in 1974 and 1976. It was the
subsequent years that would provide Auerbach with his biggest challenge,
as the late '70s proved to be a dismal period for the Celtics. Yet
Auerbach once again saved the franchise with the shrewd selection of
Larry Bird in the 1978 draft. Although he would have to wait a year
before Bird would play in the NBA, Auerbach sensed that the Indiana
native was the man to rejuvenate the proud organization and he was
right. Five other teams had a shot at Bird, but all passed.
1981, Boston became the NBA champions again as Auerbach orchestrated
another amazing trade, this time dealing the first and 13th picks in the
1981 draft to Golden State for Robert Parish and the third overall pick
which became Kevin McHale. Boston added two more titles in 1984 and
1986 thanks to the master's keen additions of Danny Ainge, Dennis
Johnson, Bill Walton, and others.
Auerbach has been the recipient
of numerous distinguished awards and honors throughout his career. In
1968, he was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA
for all his successes. When the NBA chose its Silver Anniversary Team
honoring the best of the league's first 25 years, Red was chosen as
coach of that distinguished team. In 1982, he was elected to the
Washington Hall of Stars, a Hall of Fame which involves people from all
sports. Red was also honored as NBA Coach of the Year in 1965, winning
the trophy that now bears his name, and NBA Executive of the Year in
1980. Also in that year, he was selected to the NBA's 35th Anniversary
Team as "Greatest Coach in the History of the NBA," by the PBWAA (Pro
Basketball Writers Association of America).
In 1985, the Red
Auerbach Fund, established in the Celtics' legends' name, was created to
promote athletic, recreational, and other youth development activities
in Boston and throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. January 4,
1985 will always be a special day in Boston sports history, as it was on
this day that the Celtics family saluted its patriarch by having the
number "2" retired in his honor. Number 1 was retired in honor of the
team's founder, Walter Brown. The 2 retired for Red is emblematic of his
being the second most influential person in the organization's history.
On Red's 68th birthday, September 20, 1985, a life-size statue of
Auerbach was unveiled and placed in Boston's historic Faneuil Hall
Marketplace so the public would have a lasting tribute to this
basketball genius and legend.
received seven honorary degrees from various institutions. He valued
such honors so much that he kept a previous commitment to American
International College by delivering its commencement speech on May 22,
1988, even though it prevented him from being at Boston Garden for the
deciding game of the Celtics-Hawks' best-of-seven thriller. On that
day, AIC presented Auerbach with a Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree.
A week earlier he had received a Doctor of Arts Honorary Degree from
Stonehill College. He also received Honorary Doctorate Degrees in Humane
Letters from Franklin Pierce College, on May 24, 1981, the University
of Massachusetts (Boston), in 1982, and from Boston University, on May
13, 1984. In 1986, Central New England College honored him with an
Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration. On February 14,
1993, his alma mater, George Washington, bestowed an honorary Doctorate
of Public Service Degree, and on June 9, 1998, the university celebrated
Red's 80th birthday by unveiling a plaque and a bust of the legendary
coach. This tribute is permanently attached to the exterior of the Smith
Center, GW's athletic facility.
Red authored 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, and he also penned a pair of publications written in conjunction
with Joe Fitzgerald: Red Auerbach: An Autobiography and Red Auerbach On
and Off the Court. In October, 1991, Auerbach’s released, M.B.A.:
Management by Auerbach, which was co-authored with Ken Dooley. In 1994,
Red co-authored “Seeing Red”, written in conjunction with Dan
Shaughnessy. In October 2004, his final book, “Let Me Tell You A Story”,
was published and was co-written by legendary sports journalist John
Feinstein. In 1987, an excellent instructional video entitled Winning
Basketball became available to the public featuring the insight,
thoughts, and philosophy of Red and three-time NBA Most Valuable Player
and Celtics’ captain Larry Bird.
In spite of his passing on
October 28, 2006, his hand was still on the latest Celtics championship.
Danny Ainge was Red's choice for GM of the club. Red always had faith
that Danny was the man to lead the Celtics back to glory and, as always
when it came to basketball, he was right. Red's passing has left a void
in the basketball world that will never be filled. On this, the 95th
anniversary of Red's birth, we remember him... and miss him.