|Born||(1917-09-20)September 20, 1917|
|Died||October 28, 2006(2006-10-28) (aged 89)|
|Listed height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Listed weight||170 lb (77 kg)|
|High school||Eastern District
(Brooklyn, New York)
|1940||St. Albans School|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career coaching record|
Arnold Jacob "Red" Auerbach (September 20, 1917 – October 28, 2006) was an American professional basketball coach and executive.
As a coach, Auerbach set NBA records with 938 wins and nine championships.
After his coaching retirement in 1966, he served as president and front office executive of the Celtics until his death.
As general manager and team president of the Celtics, he won an additional seven NBA titles for a grand total of 16 in a span of 29 years and making him one of the most successful team officials in the history of North American professional sports.
Auerbach is remembered as a pioneer of modern basketball, redefining basketball as a game dominated by team play and defense and for introducing the fast break as a potent offensive weapon.
He groomed many players who went on to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Additionally, Auerbach was vital in breaking down color barriers in the NBA.
He made history by drafting the first African-American NBA player, Chuck Cooper in 1950, introduced the first African-American starting five in 1964, and hired Bill Russell as the first African-American head coach in North American sports in 1966.
Famous for his polarizing nature, he was well known for smoking a cigar when he thought a victory was assured, a habit that became, for many, "the ultimate symbol of victory" during his Boston tenure.
In 1967, the NBA Coach of the Year award, which he had won in 1965, was named the "Red Auerbach Trophy", and Auerbach was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969.
In 1970, Auerbach was named President of the Boston Celtics, and first held the presidency from 1970-1997.
In 2001, after having spent 4 years as the team's vice-chairman, he returned to the role of team president and served in that capacity until his death in 2006.
In 1980, he was named the greatest coach in the history of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America, and was NBA Executive of the Year in 1980.
In addition, Auerbach was voted one of the NBA 10 Greatest Coaches in history, was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and is honored with a retired number 2 jersey in the TD Garden, the home of the Boston Celtics.
Arnold Jacob Auerbach was one of the four children of Marie and Hyman Auerbach.
Auerbach Sr. had left Russia when he was 13, and the couple owned a delicatessen store and later went into the dry-cleaning business.
Auerbach spent his whole childhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, playing basketball.
With his flaming red hair and fiery temper, Auerbach was soon nicknamed "Red."
Amid the Great Depression, Auerbach played basketball as a guard at PS 122 and in the Eastern District High School, where he was named "Second Team All-Brooklyn" by the World-Telegram in his senior year.
After a season at Seth Low Junior College, Auerbach received an athletic scholarship to the basketball program of Bill Reinhart at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Auerbach was a standout basketball player and graduated with a M.A.
In those years, Auerbach began to understand the importance of the fast break, appreciating how potent three charging attackers against two back-pedalling defenders could be.
First coaching years (1940–1950)
In 1940, Auerbach began coaching basketball at the St. and [[Theodore_Roosevelt_High_School_(Washington,_D.C. Albans School
In the 1946–47 BAA season, Auerbach led a fast break-oriented team built around early BAA star Bones McKinney and various ex-Navy players to a 49–11 win–loss record, including a standard-setting 17-game winning streak that stood as the single-season league record until 1969.
In the playoffs, however, they were defeated by the Chicago Stags in six games.
The next year the Capitols went 28–20 but were eliminated from the playoffs in a one-game Western Division tie-breaker.
In the 1948–49 BAA season, the Caps won their first 15 games and finished the season at 38–22.
In the next season, the BAA and the rival league National Basketball League merged to become the NBA, and Auerbach felt he had to rebuild his squad.
However, owner Uline declined his proposals, and Auerbach resigned.
After leaving the Capitols, Auerbach became assistant coach of the Duke Blue Devils men's basketball team.
It was assumed that Auerbach would take over for head coach Gerry Gerard, who was battling cancer.
During his tenure at Duke, Auerbach regularly worked with future All-American Dick Groat.
Auerbach later wrote that he "felt pretty bad waiting for [Gerard] to die" and that it was "no way to get a job".
Auerbach traded more than two dozen players in just six weeks, and the revamped Blackhawks improved, but ended the 1949–50 NBA season with a losing record of 28–29.
When Kerner traded Auerbach's favorite player John Mahnken, an angry Auerbach resigned again.
Also in 1950, Auerbach took a position as the athletic director of Kutsher's Hotel in the Catskills, NY.
Kutsher's was the center of a summertime basketball league, and players from the New York City area would participate, playing for one of several local country clubs and hotels.
Boston Celtics (1950–2006)
The early years (1950–56)
Brown, in characteristic candor, said to a gathering of local Boston sportswriters, "Boys, I don't know anything about basketball.
Who would you recommend I hire as coach?"
The group vociferously answered that he get the recently available Auerbach, and Brown complied.
In the 1950 NBA draft, Auerbach made some notable moves.
He argued that the flashy Cousy lacked the poise necessary to make his team, taunting him as a "local yokel".
Second, he drafted African-American Chuck Cooper, the first black player to be drafted by an NBA club.
With that, Auerbach effectively broke down the color barrier in professional basketball.
In that year, the core of the Celtics consisted of Hall-of-Fame center Ed Macauley, Auerbach's old favorite McKinney, and an unlikely addition, Cousy.
Cousy had refused to report to the club that had drafted him (which happened to be the Blackhawks, Auerbach's old club), and because his next team (the Chicago Stags) folded, he ended up with the Celtics.
However, the relationship between Auerbach and Cousy improved when the coach saw that the "Houdini of the Hardwood"—as the spectacular dribbler and flashy passer Cousy was lovingly called—became the first great playmaker of the fledgling NBA.
With the high-scoring Macauley, elite passer Cousy, and new prodigy Sharman, Auerbach had a core that provided high-octane fast-break basketball.
In the next years until 1956, the Celtics would make the playoffs every year, but never won the title.
In fact, the Celtics often choked in the playoffs, going a mere 10–17 in the postseason from 1951 through 1956.
As Cousy put it: "We would get tired in the end and could not get the ball."
As a result, Auerbach sought a defensive big man who could both get easy rebounds, initiate fast breaks, and close out games.
The dynasty (1956–66)
Via a draft-day trade that sent Macauley and rookie Cliff Hagan to the rival St. (Kerner had moved the Blackhawks to St. Louis), he acquired a center in Russell, who would go on to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Louis Hawks
Emphasizing team play rather than individual performances, and stressing that defense was more important than offense, Auerbach drilled his players to play tough defense and force opposing turnovers for easy fast-break points.
Forward Tom Sanders recalled that the teams were also regularly among the best-conditioned and toughest squads.
Anchored by defensive stalwart Russell, the tough Celtics forced their opponents to take low-percentage shots from farther distances (there was no three-point arc at the time); misses were then often grabbed by perennial rebounding champion Russell, who then either passed it on to elite fast-break distributor Cousy or made the outlet pass himself, providing their sprinting colleagues opportunities for an easy slam dunk or layup.
Auerbach's recipe proved devastating to the opposition.
From 1957 to 1966, the Celtics won nine of ten NBA championships.
This included eight consecutive championships—which is the longest championship streak in North American sports—and six victories over the Los Angeles Lakers of Hall-of-Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West in the NBA Finals.
The streak also denied perennial scoring and rebounding champion Wilt Chamberlain a title during Auerbach's coaching reign.
Flowing from Auerbach's emphasis on teamwork, what was also striking about his teams was that they never seemed to have a dominant scorer: in the 1960–61 NBA season, for instance, the Celtics had six players who scored between 15 and 21 points per game, but none made the Top 10 scoring list.
In 1964, he sent out the first-ever NBA starting five consisting of an African-American quintet, namely Russell, Willie Naulls, Tom Sanders, Sam Jones, and K. C. Jones.
Auerbach would go a step further in the 1966–67 NBA season, when he stepped down after winning nine titles in 11 years, and made Bill Russell player-coach.
Auerbach also popularized smoking a victory cigar whenever he thought a game was already decided, a habit that became cult-like in popularity in the Boston area.
Furthermore, having acquired a reputation as a fierce competitor, he often got into verbal altercations with officials, receiving more fines and getting ejected more often than any other coach in NBA history.
All in all, Auerbach directly coached nine NBA championship teams and mentored four players—Russell, Sharman, Heinsohn, and K.C.
Jones—who would go on to win an additional seven NBA championships as coaches (two each for Russell, Heinsohn and Jones, all with the Celtics, and one for Sharman with the Lakers).
Thirteen players who played for Auerbach have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame—Macauley, Ramsey, Cousy, Sharman, Heinsohn, Clyde Lovellette, Arnie Risen, Andy Phillip, John R. Thompson (as a coach), Russell, K. C. Jones, Havlicek, and Sam Jones.
Although Don Nelson played for Auerbach only during his last year as coach, his influence was profound: Nelson would later join Auerbach as one of the 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA history.
Sharman and Heinsohn would become two of only four people to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
Few if any coaches can match Auerbach's record of wins and successful mentorship of his players.
General manager (1966–84)
Prior to the 1965–66 NBA season, Auerbach announced the coming year would be his last as coach, stating to the rest of the league, "This is your chance to take your last shot at me."
After losing game 1 of the 1966 finals to the Lakers, he publicly named his successor, center Bill Russell.
The Celtics won the series in seven games, sending Auerbach out on top.
Russell then took over as a player-coach, and so became the first African-American head coach ever in the four major North American professional team sports.
While his pupil led the Celtics to two further titles in 1968 and 1969, Auerbach rebuilt the aging Celtics with shrewd draft picks, among them future Hall-of-Famers Dave Cowens and Jo Jo White, as well as Paul Westphal and Don Chaney.
With his ex-player Tom Heinsohn coaching the Celtics and led by former sixth man John Havlicek, Auerbach's new recruits won the Atlantic Division every year from 1972 to 1976, winning the NBA title in 1974 and 1976.
However, Auerbach could not prevent the Celtics from going into a slump at the end of the 1970s.
He traded away both Silas and Westphal because they wanted salary increases that would have made them higher earners than the best player on the Celtics (Cowens), which was not acceptable to Auerbach.
While the Westphal trade to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Charlie Scott was considered a success due to the Celtics' 13th title in 1976, Auerbach later admitted he erred in letting Silas go, even after Cowens personally begged him to give Silas a new deal.
When Havlicek retired in 1978, the Celtics went 61–103 in two seasons.
In the summer of 1978, after the worst in a string of contentious clashes with several different owners after Walter Brown's passing in 1964, Auerbach hopped into a taxi to take him to Logan Airport, where he was to board a flight to New York to consider a lucrative contract offer from Knicks owner Sonny Werblin.
However, the cab driver pleaded with him to stay, emphasizing how much Bostonians loved him and considered him family.
Soon after, heading a team press conference, and with his typical bravado, Auerbach puffed on his trademark cigar and stated simply, "I'm not going anywhere.
We're going to sign Larry Bird, and we're going to be on top again."
Despite knowing that Bird, a talented young player from unheralded Indiana State, had a year of college eligibility remaining, he had drafted Bird as a junior eligible in the 1978 NBA draft and waited for a year until the future Hall-of-Fame forward Bird arrived, finally setting aside his team salary rules when it became clear that his choices were paying Bird a record-setting rookie salary or watch him simply re-enter the 1979 draft.
Bird then became the highest-paid Celtic as a rookie, with a $650,000-per year deal.
Auerbach knew that the brilliant, hardworking Bird would be the cornerstone of a new Celtics generation.
In 1980, Auerbach achieved another great coup, which was dubbed "The Steal of The Century".
He convinced the Golden State Warriors to trade him a #3 overall pick and future Hall-of-Fame center Robert Parish in exchange for two picks in the 1980 NBA draft: #1 overall Joe Barry Carroll and the #13 pick Rickey Brown.
With the #3 pick, Auerbach selected the player he most wanted in the draft, Kevin McHale, who would also be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The frontcourt of Parish-McHale-Bird became one of the greatest front lines in NBA history.
In 1983, Auerbach named former Celtics player K.C. coach of the Celtics. Jones
Auerbach as a part-time side gig was the color analyst on NBA and college basketball games for TBS sports from 1982-87.
President and vice chairman (1984–2006)
In 1984, after he relinquished his general managing duties to Jan Volk, Auerbach focused on continuing as president and later vice-chairman of the Boston Celtics.
In a surprising move after winning their 15th title, he traded popular guard Gerald Henderson, the game 2 hero in the finals against the Lakers, for Seattle's first round draft pick in 1986.
Two years later, after the Celtics defeated Houston in the finals for their 16th championship, he used the second overall pick in the 1986 draft, the pick acquired from Seattle, to take college prodigy Len Bias from Maryland, arguably the most brilliant coup in Auerbach's stellar career.
With the team's star players still in their prime, the defending champions appeared set to compete at the top for years.
However, tragedy struck just two days later, when Bias died of a cocaine overdose.
Several years later, Celtics star player Reggie Lewis died suddenly in 1993, and without any league compensation for either loss, the team fell into decline, not seeing another Finals in Auerbach's lifetime.
In an interview, Auerbach confessed that he lost interest in big-time managing in the early 1990s, preferring to stay in the background and concentrating on his pastimes, racquetball and his beloved cigar-smoking.
He would, however, stay on with the Celtics as president until 1997, as vice chairman until 2001, and then became president again, a position he held until his death, although in his final years, he was weakened by heart problems and often used a wheelchair.
Auerbach was one of four children of American-born Marie Auerbach and Russian Jewish immigrant Hyman Auerbach in Brooklyn.
His brother Zang Auerbach, four years his junior, was a respected cartoonist and portraitist at the Washington Star.
He married Dorothy Lewis in the spring of 1941.
The couple had two daughters, Nancy and Randy.They also helped raise Nancy’s daughter Julie.
Auerbach was known for his love for cigar smoking.
Because Auerbach made his victory cigars a cult in the 1960s, Boston restaurants would often say "no cigar or pipe smoking, except for Red Auerbach".
In addition, Auerbach was well known for his love of Chinese food.
In an interview shortly before his death, he explained that since the 1950s, Chinese takeout was the most convenient nutrition: back then, NBA teams travelled on regular flights and had a tight time schedule, so filling up the stomach with heavier non-Chinese food meant wasting time and risking travel-sickness.
Over the years, Auerbach became so fond of this food that he even became a part-owner of a Chinese restaurant in Boston.
Despite a heart operation, he remained active in his 80s, playing racquetball and making frequent public appearances.
Despite his fierce nature, Auerbach was popular among his players.
He recalled that on his 75th birthday party, 45 of his former players showed up; and when he turned 80, his perennial 1960s victim Wilt Chamberlain showed up, a gesture which Auerbach dearly appreciated.
In an interview with ESPN, Auerbach stated that his all-star fantasy team would consist of Bill Russell—who in the former's opinion was the ultimate player to start a franchise with—as well as Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, with John Havlicek as the sixth man.
Auerbach died of a heart attack on October 28, 2006 at the age of 89.
NBA commissioner David Stern said, "the void caused by his death will never be filled" and players Bill Russell, K.C. , JonesJohn Havlicek and Larry Bird, as well as contemporaries like Jerry West, Pat Riley, and Wayne Embry universally hailed Auerbach as one of the greatest personalities in NBA history.
Bird stated "Red shared our passion for the game, our commitment to excellence, and our desire to do whatever it takes to win."
Auerbach was survived by his daughters, Nancy, Randy, Julie, and Julie’s children Peter, Hope, and Noelle.
Auerbach was interred in Falls Church, Virginia at King David Memorial Gardens within National Memorial Park on October 31, 2006.
Attendees included basketball dignitaries Bill Russell, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, and David Stern.
During the 2006–07 NBA season, NBA TV and NBA.com aired reruns of Auerbach's four-minute instructional videos known as "Red on Roundball" previously aired during NBA on CBS halftime shows in the 1970s and 1980s, and as a testament to his importance in the Boston sports world, the Boston Red Sox honored Auerbach at their April 20, 2007 game against the New York Yankees by wearing green uniforms and by hanging replicated Celtics championship banners on the "Green Monster" at Fenway Park.
Boston won 7–6.
The ceremony was attended by his daughter Randy and some of the Celtics legends.
The signature replaced the Red Auerbach memorial logo used during the 2007 season.
Auerbach was the author of seven books.
His first, Basketball for the Player, the Fan and Coach, has been translated into seven languages and is the best-selling basketball book in print.
His second book, co-authored with Paul Sann, was Winning the Hard Way.
He also wrote a pair of books with Joe Fitzgerald: Red Auerbach: An Autobiography and Red Auerbach On and Off the Court.
In October 1991 M.B.A.: Management by Auerbach was co-authored with Ken Dooley.
In 1994, Seeing Red was written with Dan Shaughnessy.
In October 2004, his last book, Let Me Tell You a Story, was co-authored with sports journalist John Feinstein.
Among Auerbach's accomplishments during his 20-year professional coaching career were eleven Eastern Division titles (including nine in a row from 1957–65), 11 appearances in the finals (including ten in a row from 1957–66), and nine NBA championships.
With a total of 16 NBA championship rings in a span of 29 years (1957–86) as the Celtics coach, general manager, and team president, Auerbach is the most successful team official in NBA history.
He is credited with creating several generations of championship Boston Celtics teams, including the first Celtics dynasty with Bill Russell, which won an NBA record eight titles in a row (1959–66).
In addition to coaching, Auerbach was a highly effective mentor; several players coached by Auerbach would become successful coaches themselves.
Bill Russell won two titles as Auerbach's successor, Tom Heinsohn won a pair of championships as a Celtics coach in the 1970s, K.C. led the Celtics to two further titles in the 1980s, and JonesBill Sharman coached the Los Angeles Lakers to their first title in 1972.
Throughout his coaching tenure in Boston, Auerbach served several other roles including, but not limited to, general manager, head of scouting, personnel director and travel agent.
In the early offseasons, he would take the Celtics on barnstorming tours around New England, promoting the still fledgling NBA.
At the end of every season, regardless of their on-court success, he would approach owner Brown and ask, "Walter, are our last paychecks going to clear?"
to which Brown would always positively respond, and they would.
During this era, when most team owners not only thought of, but also treated their players as cattle and/or slaves, athletes from all the four major professional sports leagues were fighting for their rights and economic fairness.
As Auerbach represented management of the Celtics, team members frustrated with their salaries had only him to complain to, or about, in their role in the formation of the players' union.
These interpersonal dynamics are construed as follows by journalist David Halberstam:
Pertaining to the above, Walter Brown was not rich; also that as Auerbach was as tough at the negotiating table as he was on the practice court and in the locker room, it was always for the purpose of getting the most out of his players.
In the summer of 1984, with much trepidation, Auerbach reluctantly signed former finals MVP Cedric Maxwell to a lucrative guaranteed contract to stay with the Celtics.
Then, Auerbach's worst fears came true when Maxwell arrived that fall out of shape, and, suffering from various injuries, provided little contribution as the team lost a playoff for the first time ever to the Lakers in the 1985 Finals.
Two subsequent facts are perhaps most relevant in evaluating Auerbach's legacy: First, he was able to trade Maxwell to San Diego in exchange for former MVP Bill Walton, who was a major contributor to the team winning its 16th title in 1986, the last of Auerbach's career.
Second, Maxwell continues to be embraced as a beloved member of the Celtics family, including having his number retired alongside the team's legendary greats.
In Auerbach's honor, the Celtics have retired a number-2 jersey with the name "AUERBACH", memorializing his role as the second most important Celtic ever, behind founder Walter Brown, in whose honor the number-1 "BROWN" jersey is retired.
His story is documented in The First Basket, the first and most comprehensive documentary on the history of Jews and Basketball.
He is also featured as an interview subject for the film.
From his early days, Auerbach was convinced that the fast break, where a team used a quick outlet pass to fast guards who run downcourt and score before the opponent had re-established position, was a potent tactical weapon.
This new strategy proved lethal for the opposition.
Further, Auerbach moved emphasis away from individual accolades and instilled the teamwork element into his players.
He also invented the concept of the role player and of the sixth man, stating: "Individual honors are nice, but no Celtic has ever gone out of his way to achieve them.
We have never had the league's top scorer.
In fact, we won seven league championships without placing even one among the league's top 10 scorers.
Our pride was never rooted in statistics."
While Auerbach was not known for his tactical bandwidth, famously restricting his teams to just seven plays, he was well known for his psychological warfare, often provoking opposing players and officials with unabashed trash talk.
For his fiery temper, he was ejected more often and received more fines than any other coach in NBA history.
Age did nothing to diminish his fire; in 1983, after star Larry Bird was ejected from a preseason game against Philadelphia at the Garden along with the Sixers' role player Marc Iavaroni, Auerbach stormed onto the court and after taking the officials to task, screamed nose-to-nose with the 6'10" 260-pound Moses Malone.
Concerning his own team, Auerbach was softer.
Earl Lloyd, the first black player to play in the NBA, said: "Red Auerbach convinced his players that he loved them [...] so all they wanted to do was please him."
No color barrier
Auerbach was known for choosing players for talent and motivation, with disregard for skin color or ethnicity.
In 1964, these five players became the first African-American starting five in the NBA.
When Auerbach gave up coaching to become the Celtics general manager in 1966, he appointed Bill Russell as his successor.
Russell became the first black NBA coach, and was the first black coach of a professional sports organization since Fritz Pollard in 1925.
Similarly, in the 1980s, as the Celtics GM, Auerbach fielded an earnest, hardworking team that was derided as being "too white."
While the 1980s Celts were, in actuality, neither predominantly white nor black, the NBA at the time was predominately black.
White players like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, and Bill Walton played alongside Tiny Archibald, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, and Cedric Maxwell to bring three more championships in the '80s under coaches Bill Fitch (white) and K.C.
Arnold "Red" Auerbach Award
To honor Auerbach, the Celtics created the Arnold "Red" Auerbach award in 2006.
It is an award given annually to the current Celtic player or coach who "best exemplifies the spirit and meaning of a true Celtic."
NBA Coach of the Year Award
The trophy is named the 'Red Auerbach trophy' and has a figure of Auerbach sitting on a bench.
- List of select Jewish basketball players
- The First Basket
- List of NBA championship head coaches
- Statue of Red Auerbach
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red Auerbach.