Red Auerbach back in Boston, tweaks Phil Jackson
BOSTON -- Red Auerbach was happy, healthy and cantankerous as ever Wednesday night as he made it to what he estimated was his 50th Boston Celtics home opener.
Just two weeks after leaving a hospital following his third successive medical emergency, Auerbach traveled from his home in Washington along with two doctors and his daughter, Nancy, aboard Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck's private plane for the home opener against the New York Knicks.
Auerbach, who won nine NBA titles while coaching the Celtics -- a record that stood for 36 years until Phil Jackson matched it in 2002 -- still holds the title of team president.
Auerbach couldn't help himself from taking a few shots at Jackson, a man he respects but doesn't particularly admire.
Auerbach said he did not hear from Jackson or receive any get-well messages from the Lakers' coach while he was hospitalized during the summer and early fall, first for an intestinal blockage, then for internal bleeding caused by a cyst, and a third time after fluid built up in his lungs from post-surgical inactivity. The latter ailment kept the 88-year-old Auerbach hospitalized almost three weeks.
Auerbach also took a swipe at both Brown and Jackson for taking over teams coming off miserable seasons.
"Phil Jackson, they've got a pretty good ballclub out there, but he's got his built-in excuse. Larry Brown, whatever he does is a plus, so they've got everything going for them," Auerbach said. "You could have taken -- I won't say anybody, but you can take any knowledgeable coach and put them in those situations, and they can't do any worse. If L.A. doesn't make the playoffs, it's building. If New York doesn't make the playoffs, we're building, you know?"
Auerbach also predicted the San Antonio Spurs will not win the 2006 NBA championship, though he didn't explain his reasoning. "I know they're not going to win it," he said.
Wearing a white sweater with a Celtics logo beneath his tan sports coat, Auerbach spoke with reporters for about 10 minutes more than two hours prior to the start of the Knicks-Celtics game. Afterward, he met briefly with Brown.
"He's a phenomenal man. I was hoping he'd be at the first game," Brown said.
Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.