Biographies - Red Auerbach
Image Source: Basketball Hall of Fame - Red Auerbach
|Red Auerbach |
|Born: September 20, 1917|
|Died: October 28, 2006|
American coach and executive for the Boston Celtics in the National Basketball Association. In 1980 he was named the greatest coach in the history of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America.
Arnold Jacob "Red" Auerbach was an American coach and executive for the Boston Celtics in the National Basketball Association. As coach of the team from 1950 to 1966, he won nine NBA titles including eight consecutively from 1959 to 1966 � the longest string of championships in the history of North American professional sports. After retiring from coaching, he continued to serve as the general manager or president of the Celtics from 1966 until 1997, and again as president from 2001 until his death. In 1980 he was named the greatest coach in the history of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America.
Born and raised in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, Auerbach was the son of Hyman and Marie A. (Thompson). He would receive the nickname "Red" from his fiery hair before he went bald, just like fellow Brooklynite and NBA coach Red Holzman. He then attended the Seth Low Junior College for one year before transferring to and graduating from George Washington University. For several years, the GW mens basketball team hosted and participated in the Red Auerbach Colonial Classic, going undefeated and winning the championship each year that it was held.
Auerbach was married to Dorothy Lewis (deceased 2000) on June 6, 1941 and had two children: Nancy and Randy.
Auerbach coached the now-defunct Washington Capitols to two division titles in 1947 and 1949. The 1947 teams .817 winning percentage remained the NBA record for the next 20 years. The 1947 team also won 17 straight games at one point during the season � a streak that would remain a league record until 1969. In the 1949-50 season, he coached the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, where at 28-29 he had his only losing season as a coach.
For a brief period (1949-1950), prior to returning to the NBA, Auerbach was an assistant coach at Duke University. He was hired to replace the aging head coach of the mens basketball team, Gerry Gerard, who had been diagnosed with cancer. However, Auerbach only stayed at Duke for three months because he did not want to get the job due to the passing of Gerard, a close friend.
Auerbach then began coaching the Boston Celtics the next season, where he achieved unparalleled success as a professional basketball coach. During his twenty years as a coach Auerbach won 938 regular season games, a record that stood until Lenny Wilkens broke it in the 1994-95 season. Auerbach is tied with Phil Jackson for the most NBA championship rings as a coach with nine.
As a coach, Auerbach was a pioneer in race relations. In his first season coaching the Celtics in 1950, he chose Chuck Cooper of Duquesne University as the first black player selected in an NBA Draft. During the 1963-64 season, Auerbachs starting lineup of Bill Russell, K. C. Jones, Sam Jones, Tom Sanders and Willie Naulls, made the Celtics the first team with five black starters. When Auerbach named Russell as his coaching successor in 1966, it was the first hiring of a black coach by a major American pro sports team. He also "did the unthinkable when he drafted Larry Bird as a "junior eligible", but then had to wait a year while Bird finished his studies at Indiana State University. In 1986, he made a deal that looked to ensure that the Celtic dynasty would continue; however, Len Bias, the player in the deal, died of a heart attack due to cocaine use less than two days later.
Although Auerbach stepped back from coaching in 1966, he continued on as the Celtics general manager until 1984, and served as the teams president from 1970 to 1997 and from 2001 to his death in 2006. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969.
John Feinstein wrote a book with Auerbach entitled "Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game."
Auerbach is also famous for lighting up a victory Hoyo de Monterrey cigar during games with time left on the clock.
Auerbach also won the NBA Executive of the Year Award with the Celtics in the 1979-1980 season. He remained to his death the best-known NBA executive and was named the greatest coach in the history of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America in 1980.
Before his death, Red Auerbach was still working with youngsters, coaching at the Red Auerbach Basketball School. He was also the chairman of the Red Auerbach Youth Foundation. He was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1979, and the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
Auerbach also had basketball season tickets at George Washington University, and his seat is colored red in contrast to the rest of the seats which are blue.
In the summer of 2005, due to health issues, he was unable to attend his own basketball camp, and in September he was hospitalized again, but he was released from the hospital in October.
Auerbach died after a heart attack in front of his home in Washington, D.C. on October 28, 2006, some five weeks after his 89th birthday.
Red Auerbach was buried in Falls Church, Virginia at the King David Memorial Gardens on October 31, 2006.