I've been thinking a lot about Red lately. A couple of days ago, I wrote about how Danny's moves could be considered "Auerbachian" and mused on whether Red was good or lucky and decided it was a bit of both. Red was a genius but he also was lucky. I think the same can be said of Danny.
Yesterday I discussed Red's legacy of keeping things simple. On the back of one of my tee shirts, it has a quote from Red: "The Celtics are not a basketball team, they are a way of life." Red was the Boston Celtics for over 50 years. When he passed away before the 2006-07 season, the Celtics dedicated that season to him. That was unfortunate because the Celtics had a terrible season. Between the youth, the injuries, the 18 game losing streak and the tanking accusations, it was one of the worst seasons in Celtics history. It was a shame that Red wasn't around to see Danny's plan pay dividends in the 2007-08 season.
He would be very proud of the way Danny rebuilt the team that season. Danny was Red's choice as GM and he always had faith that Danny could do the job of rebuilding the Celtics. When Danny was named GM, Red had this to say about him:
"I know that it will be a great relationship because he is a worker. He has a great personality, he's smart and bleeds green!"
He also remarked on several occasions that he felt that Danny was one of the luckiest guys he ever knew. With the championship in 2008, he also proved that he was very good. This season, he's also done a masterful job of rebuilding the team once more with a great mix of veterans and youth.
Red would have been proud of the way Danny took a chance to bring in players that might be considered by some on the tail end of their careers, but players who still had a lot to give. He would be proud of the way Danny brought in players who not only fit together but who are good character guys. Red was always willing to take a chance on players and he had an uncanny knack of finding just the right players who would fit together and he always put a premium on character in the players he brought in. Some of Red's most notable moves were:
In 1951, Red acquired the rights to Bill Sharman from Detroit. Most teams thought Sharman would play baseball, but he turned his back on baseball and signed with the Celtics. His No. 21 was retired by the Celtics 15 years later.
In 1956, Red traded Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan to St. Louis for a first-round draft pick, which he would use to draft center Bill Russell from the University of San Francisco. But, that isn't the whole story. Rochester had the first pick and the Celtics had the second pick. Walter Brown, who owned the Celtics, also owned the Ice Capades. Red promised Rochester that they could have the Ice Capades for a week if they would pass on Russell in the draft. I am sure the Ice Capades were entertaining, but Russell went on to be instrumental in helping Boston to win 11 of the next 13 championships.
In 1970, one year after Russell retired, Auerbach drafted an undersized center named Dave Cowens with the fourth pick in the draft. When he went to see Cowens play at Florida State, he was very excited and knew he wanted to draft him. But he didn't want to appear too interested and so he got up in the middle of the game, shaking his head like he was disgusted, and left, hoping that anyone else scouting the red head would take his lead and think that there was nothing there to see. Cowens was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
In 1980, Red, along with along with coach Bill Fitch, completed a deal to send the 1st and 13th overall picks in the draft to Golden State for center Robert Parish and the 3rd overall pick. Robert Parish was considered an under achiever by Golden State and they were happy to be rid of him. Red used the 3rd pick to select forward Kevin McHale from the University of Minnesota. This may well have been one of the most lopsided trades in history.
Another piece to what would be more championship puzzles was acquired when Red sent center Rick Robey to Phoenix for veteran guard Dennis Johnson. Once again, DJ was considered a trouble maker in Phoenix and in Seattle before that. But, in spite of that reputation, he was a winner in both places. In Boston he became the consummate teammate and was instrumental on two Celtics championship teams. Larry Bird called DJ the best teammate he ever played with.
Rede also took a chance on a second baseball player when he drafted Danny Ainge in the second round in the 1981 draft. Here is how Danny describes the way Red approached drafting him.
"Do you want the real story of what the deposition said? Red talked with me before the draft. I had a contract that was an iron clad contract with the Blue Jays that would prohibit me from playing another professional sport for at least another year. So when I was coming out of college, my contract indicated that I can't play professional basketball. I told everybody that, the Sixers, the Mavericks, the Lakers. I told every team the same thing. I told the same thing to Red Auerbach, and Red says, "Forget that, we're drafting you anyway!" So Red ended up drafting me. He had the best opportunity [to draft me], he had three picks that year. He was able to roll the dice, go to court and lose the battle with Toronto, and then paid Toronto to have my rights. There was just something certain about Red. And from my perspective, I'm not sure that I leave professional baseball at that time to play for any other organization but the Boston Celtics, although I never indicated that to Red. If the Celtics draft me I'll come, but I'm not going to any other team, I never said any of that to Red, but he didn't care. He was confident that he had an organization that would be appealing to a player like myself, and he was willing to take the chance and try to make something happen."
Red always gave the credit to the players. When they retired #2 in his honor, he had this to say in his speech.
"I wouldn't be standing out here today if it weren't for all those guys out there. I Just sat on the bench and said, 'Cooz, get the ball down court; Russ, get the rebound,' ... It's great. Tommy? I didn't have to tell Tommy anything, he knew how to do it. Ramsey, the first sixth man, Russell, Havlicek, Silas, Jo Jo, Ed Macauley, the first center we had here. They're all so great and special to me."
Red never over coached. He had a very simple philosophy of coaching. He asked players to do what they could do, not what they couldn't do. He asked Bob Cousy to pass, because he could pass. He asked Bill Sharman to shoot, because he could shoot. He asked K.C. Jones to play defense, because he could play defense. He told Russell to block shots and rebound because that is what he did. He also never determined a player's worth based on stats. If a player filled his role, that's all that was important to Red. When John Havlicek became part of the team, they went more to quickness around the basket, because Havlicek was so quick. He always adapted to the skills of his players; he never made them adapt to his coaching style.
Here are some of Red's more famous quotes that show more of his philosophy of life and coaching.
"An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise."
"Basketball is like war in that offensive weapons are developed first, and it always takes a while for the defense to catch up."
"He who believes in nobody knows that he himself is not to be trusted."
"Just do what you do best."
"Natural abilities are like natural plants; they need pruning by study."
"The only correct actions are those that demand no explanation and no apology. "
"When I looked around at all those flags up there, I really feel really great because they mean more to me than flags. They mean people; they mean paying the price for victory."
Red was truly one of a kind and I know that Danny depended on Red for advice and guidance. I am sure that Red approved of Danny's plan to gather "chips" and develop them and trade them for established stars. I just wish that Red could have been around to see the fruition of that plan. I know he would be very proud of what Danny has done since taking over as GM. I will close with a quote from Danny about Red.
"Red is part of all of us. I think that will live on. I will never forget what Red has done for me and the opportunities that opened the doors for me and many of the people in the organization, and I think that Red lives on in all of us."
The Celtics will always be equated with Red Auerbach. He is so much a part of everything that is the Celtics (except the dancers, maybe). Red would be very proud of what Danny accomplished this summer and I know he is smiling down on the Celtics this season. He will be lighting up his victory cigar as we lift Banner 18 to the rafters. This one's for you, Red.
It was an interesting summer for danny. No bill walton. No kevin garnett. But hopes are high. The team is deep. I don't know if the sky is the limit, but he did very well without pulling off an Auerbachian heist.