Legendary coach Auerbach dies at 89

Sunday, October 29, 2006

'Red' coached the Celtics to nine titles and was the GM as they won seven more crowns.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Red Auerbach, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA championships in the 1950s and 1960s, died Saturday. He was 89.

Auerbach won 938 games with the Celtics and was the winningest coach in NBA history until Lenny Wilkens overtook him in the 1994-95 season.

As general manager, the straight-talking Auerbach, who celebrated victories with a postgame cigar, was also the architect of Celtics teams that won seven more titles in the 1970s and 1980s.

Auerbach's death was announced by the Celtics, for whom he still served as team president. The team said the upcoming season would be dedicated in his honor.

He died of a heart attack near his home in Washington, according to an NBA official, who declined to be identified because the family had not made an official announcement. His last public appearance was on Wednesday, when he received the U.S. Navy's Lone Sailor Award in front of family and friends in ceremonies in Washington.

"Red was a guy who always introduced new things," Steve Pagliuca, a Celtics managing partner, said in an interview this month. "He had some of the first black players in the league and some people didn't like that, but you've got to do what's right for the fans. So I think we tried to do things thoughtfully. We didn't come in here and change everything overnight."

Born Arnold Auerbach in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Sept. 20, 1917, Auerbach was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968.

"I never thought he'd die," said author John Feinstein, who last year collaborated on a book with Auerbach on the coach's reflections of more than 70 years in basketball. "He was a unique personality, a combination of toughness and great, great caring about people. He cared about people much more than it showed in his public face, and that's why people cared about him."

With the Celtics, he made deals that brought Bill Russell, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale to Boston. He drafted Larry Bird a year early when the Indiana State star was a junior to make sure Bird would come to Boston. The jersey No. 2 was retired in Auerbach's honor during the 1984-85 season.

He coached championship teams, including eight straight from 1959 through 1966, that featured players such as Russell, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Bill Sharman, K.C. Jones and Sam Jones -- all inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Phil Jackson matched Auerbach's record nine championships when the Los Angeles Lakers won the title in 2001-02.

As Celtics president, Auerbach shuttled between Boston and his home in the nation's capital, where he led an active lifestyle that included playing racquetball and tennis into his mid-70s.

Auerbach underwent two procedures in May 1993 to clear blocked arteries. He had been bothered by chest discomfort at various times beginning in 1986.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: