Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ESPN [Print without images]

Tuesday, July 9, 2002
The importance of wearing socks

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

For years, Red Auerbach has had the same daily routine. The professor of roundball navigates his Saab each weekday morning into downtown Washington, settles into his second-floor office and spends a few hours fielding phone calls and attending to the business of basketball. Then he heads over to his club in a leafy Virginia suburb for some lunch and a few games of gin-rummy with his buddies.

Auerbach hugs Bill Russell after the Celtics claim the 1965 title.
Auerbach, the old George Washington University point guard, has been a legendarily feisty campaigner and, even at age 84, he's usually spoiling for a fight. This dynasty stuff, in his mind, is getting a little ridiculous. Maybe it's because his standards are so high; he retired in 1966 after coaching the Celtics to those eight straight championships. Perhaps it's the heat, or just a bad reaction to the muffin he had for breakfast.

"The Yankees?" he asked, incredulously. "They're not a dynasty right now. What did they win last year? Why don't you call the Arizona team a dynasty? Why not say them?

"A dynasty is winning it and then having the ability to sustain it, to continue winning. That's the name of the game, to win. Second? That's bull s---. A dynasty is when you win something. The Lakers, now they've won three straight. They're on the verge of a dynasty. The Yankees? If they win this year, they've got a dynasty of one straight."

Seriously, Red, how do you really feel?

"A dynasty is when someone is a cut above everyone else," Auerbach said. "It's when Sampras was at his best, or like Tiger Woods is today. It's consistent dominance. You know it when you see it.

"Joe McCarthy, the Yankees manager, used to say, `You want to be a champion? Act like one. Feel like one. Look like one.' The other athletes will look at you in a different way. Years ago, I copied Joe on my dress code. I used to talk to DiMaggio and Rizzuto and they always had to wear a shirt and tie to ballgames. So when we were on the road, you had to wear a jacket and the shirt had to be buttoned. The Knicks would come up on a Saturday night with no socks and dungarees. My players would be all dressed up, suit, shirt and ties. Don't think that didn't have an effect."

Byron Scott, who coached the New Jersey Nets into the NBA finals where they were dismantled by the Lakers, has an interesting perspective; he played guard for the Lakers when they won three titles in four years from 1985-88. So, how good are these current Lakers?

"They're right up there," Scott said. "They have two of the greatest players in the game today and they have a great, great coach in Phil Jackson. But & if you're trying to compare them to the teams we had in the 80s, I still think we had a better team."

Dr. Jack Ramsay, who coached Portland to the 1977 NBA title, falls into the curmudgeon category, too. Not yet -nyet, nyet, nyet -- for these Lakers.

"I don't think the [Lakers] are a dynasty-type team," Ramsay said. "The role players are good, but they don't compare with teams that I consider dynasty teams: Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, the Lakers' repeat squad in the late 80s, the Celtics' teams, all those old teams, even George Mikan's squad from Minneapolis.

"Again, the Lakers are a great team. But when you compare them top to bottom, they're not in that elite class."

* * * * *

1) The hard-line, old-school, cold-war approach: "A dynasty is winning it and then having the ability to sustain it, to continue winning. That's the name of the game, to win. Second? That's bulls---," says Red Auerbach, whose Celtics won eight straight NBA titles from 1958-66.

2) The moderate, down-the-middle approach: Consistency is the hallmark of sports' greatest teams, says Bill Walsh, the architect of four Super Bowl championships with the San Francisco 49ers.

3) Glasnost: Everyone is a winner: "Establishing dominance over a period of time, regardless of who does it, is a tremendous accomplishment," says John Wooden, who led UCLA to 10 NCAA titles.