NBA Local: Red Auerbach Reaction

Updated: October 29, 2006, 9:47 AM ET


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Tough Man Had A Tender Side
Back when Auerbach's staff consisted of himself, and, well, himself, he relied on a Rolodex full of numbers for nearly every prominent college coach in the country to glean his scouting reports. He was always one step ahead of the competition. And, when he'd fleece his fellow NBA executives, he did so without a trace of humility. "If you do something great, kid, then don't apologize to anyone," he told me. "If you're a winner, then act like one." He called me "kid" right up until yesterday, the day he died of a heart attack. He had battled respiratory problems in recent years, and I suppose none of us should have been shocked that an 89-year-old man's time finally had come. Still, the news took my breath away. Forgive me. Red was so stubborn, I assumed he would live forever. -- Boston Globe

His Cigar Habit Ignited Controversy
For good reason. Whatever its intent, Auerbach's triumphal gesture made an astounding impact."The image of this cigar is unbelievable," he told SI. "A guy in Quincy, Mass., won the $1,000 first prize from the Cigar Institute of America for a photograph of me blowing smoke." It even transcended planetary limitations. As Auerbach reminisced to the Globe, "It became a charismatic thing. Years later, even the astronauts were talking about 'Red's victory cigar.' I got a real kick out of that." Especially since the establishment didn't. -- Boston Globe

For Decades, He Lit Up Our Lives
We were so lucky. We had Red Auerbach for nearly 57 NBA seasons. We had his genius, his rough, old-school charm, and his Brooklyn-learned street smarts. And we lost him yesterday. At the age of 89. Just four days before the start of another Celtics season. Red was the Celtics. Sure, we had Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, and the rest. But Red was the Celtics. He delivered 16 championships to our town. We never could pay back all the pride and glory he brought to Boston. -- Boston Globe

Red Leaves Long Legacy
Red 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. His last public appearance was Wednesday when he received the U.S. Navy's Lone Sailor Award in front of family and friends in ceremonies in Washington. While many focus on his grand coaching numbers - 938 regular season victories, 99 more in the playoffs and nine world championships - Auerbach leaves a legacy that moves far deeper. The fact the NBA's coach of the year award is named for him is testament enough to his brilliance on the bench, but it was his ability to craft a roster and his willingness to step outside the sadly conventional bounds of his day that may define him more accurately. -- Boston Herald

Celts Family Recalls Red
Red Auerbach played a lead role in Danny Ainge's career. "I have so many fond memories of Red," said the former Celtics player, now the team's director of basketball operations. "He was the guy who drafted me and fought to get me out of baseball and onto the Celtics. I can never thank him enough for that." ... Celtics legend Bob Cousy saw Auerbach on Wednesday when he was honored by the U.S. Navy. "I'm so pleased that I went down now, though he looked terrible," Cousy said. "He was in a wheelchair with an oxygen tent. He talked about how he was coming up Wednesday (for the season opener), and I told Missy (Cousy's wife) that I would be amazed if he'd actually make the trip. Obviously I didn't know. -- Boston Herald

Auerbach's Pride, Passion Never Faded
Red Auerbach, who died at home yesterday, didn't make it to No. 60. But there's a good chance that no one will ever come close to 59 straight. Not Phil Jackson, the man tied with Auerbach for the most titles (nine) in NBA history, and the decades-younger rival whom a feisty Auerbach so deliciously skewered with some well-placed barbs about the Lakers during last November's season opener. Auerbach's health was fading, but not his passion for a good fight. -- Boston Herald

Celtics Patriarch 'Invented Professional Basketball'
His importance to the game of basketball cannot be overstated, and his contributions went far beyond the games on the court. Auerbach drafted the NBA's first African American player, named the first black coach in any professional sports league and had the first all-black starting lineup in NBA history. His coaching innovations were copied by others, and he helped define a style of play that has been emulated for decades. In the words of sportswriter John Feinstein, Auerbach was "the man who, for all intents and purposes, invented professional basketball." -- Washington Post

Auerbach Dies Of Heart Attack
Arnold "Red" Auerbach, one of the most successful coaches and executives in professional sports history, died yesterday of a heart attack near his home in the District, according to an NBA official who spoke to the Associated Press. He was 89. Auerbach coached the Boston Celtics to eight consecutive NBA championships and nine overall in the last 10 years (1957-66) of his 17-season tenure. Later he saw the team win six more titles while he was general manager. At the time of his death he was president of the team, which will dedicate the upcoming season to him. -- Washington Times

Red Forever Green
Desperate for stability and success, owner Walter Brown turned his team over to a young coach named Arnold "Red" Auerbach in 1950. In one year, the Celtics were in the playoffs. In two years, they were playing for their division title and by 1957 they were NBA champions. The Celtics and the NBA were never the same. By the time Auerbach left the bench in 1966, the Celtics won nine titles. He won 938 games in 20 years, including his final 16 seasons with the Celtics. Auerbach died Saturday of a heart attack near his home in Washington. He was 89. Auerbach is still considered the greatest coach in NBA history and one of the most important figures in basketball history. While the Celtics haven't won a title since 1986, they remain one of the most revered and successful franchises in professional sports. -- Hartford Courant

Hall Of Fame Coach Red Auerbach Dies
Though barely 5 feet 10 inches as a spunky guard at George Washington University in the late 1930s, Auerbach became perhaps the most towering figure in the NBA for decades. He drove his Celtics to dynasties never imagined in professional sports and certain never to be repeated. He coached the Celtics to eight straight NBA titles and nine in 10 years. Then he turned the team over to Russell, who won two more as player-coach with Auerbach's players. Auerbach's teams won twice more in the 1970s and three times in the '80s with players such as Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Dave Cowens. His successes were so resented in the NBA that teams started to avoid dealing with him. -- Chicago Tribune

McHale Talks Of Cigar's Symbolism
"Red said it isn't bragging if you could back it up. I liked that," said Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale, one of the Celtics' many Hall of Famers whose lives were touched by Auerbach in his roles of coach, general manager or team president. Auerbach died Saturday at age 89. "That's why he loved Larry [Bird]," McHale said. "He loved guys who would say, 'This is what I'm going to do. Stop it if you can.' That's what the cigar was." -- Minneapolis Star Tribune

No One Beat L.A. Like Auerbach Did
Eight times over a 25-year period, from 1959 when the Lakers were still in Minneapolis through the 1983-84 season, the Lakers and Celtics met in the NBA Finals and eight times Auerbach and the Celtics emerged swimming in champagne. And the Celtics patriarch, so obstinate and self-involved that he celebrated his successes by firing up victory cigars on the bench, never let them forget. "Please," Auerbach taunted the media after the Celtics' Finals-clinching Game 6 victory over the Lakers at the Sports Arena in 1963, "tell me some of these stories about Los Angeles being the basketball capital of the world." -- Los Angeles Times

Celtics Coach Built A Basketball Dynasty
Auerbach and his late wife of 59 years, Dorothy, had two daughters. Because one of those daughters, Randy, suffered from asthma, the family never moved to the damp climate of Boston. Instead, they stayed in Washington all the years Auerbach was with the Celtics, with Red living in a Boston hotel. In addition to his daughters, Randy Auerbach and Nancy Auerbach Collins, Auerbach is survived by a granddaughter and three great-grandchildren. Auerbach was feisty to the end. Once asked if he looked back with favor upon those Lakers teams he had battled so ferociously as a coach, he replied, "They were the enemy then and they are the enemy now." -- Los Angeles Times

Auerbach Left Impression On Jazz Execs
Jazz vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor remembers Auerbach for those dynasty years. "He deserves an awful lot of credit," O'Connor said, "because he didn't have just one great team. He had two. He turned that team over and still won. That's a difficult thing to do." According to O'Connor, Auerbach was "ahead of his time in terms of scouting and finding players. And not only was he wonderful at picking out talent, but he was a terrific coach." Like Layden, Auerbach was born in Brooklyn. "We're going to miss him," Layden said. "He was a figure to be reckoned with. He went through the hard times and the great times [of the NBA]. He was a very intelligent guy - very shrewd but very honest. "I'm sorry to hear he passed, but it was a privilege knowing him. I put knowing Red next to knowing Johnny Wooden. And Red Holzman. Just special people. All of them." -- Salt Lake Tribune

NBA Pioneer Red Auerbach Dies
"Red Auerbach was the NBA." said Rockets assistant GM Daryl Morey, who worked for the Celtics for four years. "Every player or person in the NBA, whether they worked with Red or not, has been impacted by Red. I was fortunate to have worked with Red, it was a once in a lifetime experience. I mourn with the Celtics family on this sad day." -- Houston Chronicle

Auerbach Led A Venerable Life
Frail, yet somehow still in possession of his old vitality, the NBA giant took a deep breath from his wheelchair and let them have it. He scolded them for their lousy effort, criticized them for their sloppy play, and wondered how a 39-year-old Cliff Robinson could beat a bunch of young guys to a loose ball. This went on for five minutes, when he realized he suddenly stopped himself. "Don't worry," he finally said. "You're all young. Stay with it. Very soon, you're going to learn how to win." It was Auerbach in a nutshell -- switching seamlessly from implacable curmudgeon to sensitive patriarch -- and when he left, there wasn't a single player who didn't call home to tell their parents or buddies what just happened. His life was a venerable, colorful thread running through the fabric of the NBA history, and that life ended yesterday, when Auerbach died near his home in Washington, D.C. at the age of 89, the victim of a heart attack. -- Newark Star-Ledger

Any Deal With Red Could Go Up In Smoke
Arnold Jacob Auerbach, colorfully known as Red, was the standard for every coach and general manager who cared about winning and did everything they could to pull it off. Auerbach was the greatest front-office man ever. In any sport. He found a way to get players, then he found a way to coach them, then he won with them. He built the dynasty known as the Celtics in the late 1950s, saw it to prominence in the 1960s, then managed to win in the 1970s and also the '80s. Four decades of brilliance was accomplished with a variety of players and personalities and styles, yet the one common denominator was a short, rumpled guy from Brooklyn who settled for nothing less than championships. -- Newsday

There'll Never Be Another Like Red
It was the night of another NBA opener a year ago, at the new Boston Garden, the one known as the TD Banknorth Garden. So it wasn't Red Auerbach's Garden at North Station in Boston, wasn't really the same place or the same parquet floor where Auerbach became the greatest basketball coach who ever lived. But it was the Celtics against the Knicks on this night, and it had been such an important rivalry once in pro basketball, even if both teams had been going the wrong way for a while. So we wanted the night to be special. And it was, because the old man showed up. -- New York Daily News

Auerbach Turned Celts Into Yankees Of The NBA
Still, New York never forgot Auerbach, and Auerbach never forgot where he came from, never forgot his roots. He'd first learned the game on the rooftop of P.S. 122 on First Avenue and Ninth Street, in a court that was enclosed by chicken wire. It honed a game that was as good as anyone's in the city by the mid-'30s, a thought that many of his future players thought incongruous, given his rumpled coaching appearance. "My senior year I made second team all-Brooklyn," Auerbach told The New York Times three years ago. "When I told that to my Celtics team, they laughed, but I told them, 'In Brooklyn we had more teams and better teams than the whole state of Indiana.'" Similarly, for all he accomplished with so many different titles and job descriptions, he only really regarded himself one way. "They talk about the business aspects and all," he told the Herald. "But at the end of the day, I still consider myself a coach." So will the game he enriched and helped to define. Today and forever. -- New York Post

Red Auerbach Dies at 89
Red Auerbach, who built the Boston Celtics into one of the greatest dynasties in sports, presiding over 16 National Basketball Association championship teams as a coach, general manager and club president, died yesterday in the Washington area. He was 89. His death was announced by the Celtics. The cause was a heart attack, The Associated Press reported. Auerbach had a relentless will to win and he was a supreme judge of talent. He was a combative figure who always sought an edge, whether taunting his foes by lighting premature victory cigars on the bench or going jaw to jaw with the referees. He was a presence in pro basketball for 60 years, his coaching career stretching back to the birth of the N.B.A. -- New York Times