The Celtics have banged out Boston Garden their last 52 home dates. Fifteen three twenty. As they would say in Boston, you could charm a dog off a meat wagon with a Celtic ducat. It's ironic, isn't it? Here's Red Auerbach—64 years of age, 30-odd years in the Hub, 13 in the Hall of Fame, 14 world championships as the Celtic coach and/or general manager—thinking about retiring after next season, and only now, right at the end of the line. Boston finally appreciates what it had all along. The Celtics were champions, heroes, legends, and at last, holy of holies, they're even a hot ticket. Red, you can hang it up now.
Of course, he says it didn't bother him all that much. "My players know what I did. I know what I did," he says. Naturally, he is chomping on a cigar. He's sitting in his office, surrounded by all manner of the most incredible bric-a-brac—photos and cartoons, handmade presents, the letter openers he collects, citations, cigars, gadgets and gizmos, all the effluvia of a long life in the public eye. And, in a way, Auerbach looks like a larger prop. After all, he does blend in. Red? What a laugh, red. Har de har har. Red? Always your browns and grays, your tans, your basic blacks. Maroon or forest green are flaming autumn leaves upon Auerbach. If they put out a new paint color named Auerbach Red it would be a dull brown, the shade of a well-used basketball.
He hangs up the phone and says: "Where was I? Oh yeah, Bill Sharman comes up to me in practice, and he says we got to change the numbers of the plays. We only had seven, you know, and even the opponents knew them. So he says, can we change the numbers? I say, no. He says, why? I say. because you're all too dumb." Of course, this may have been the 1960-61 team, all 11 members of which became pro or college coaches and the trainer a major league baseball owner. "You can't have a debating society," Red goes on. "But Sharman keeps after me, so I say, O.K., we'll do it for you dummies the easiest way possible. Number One becomes Number Two, Number Two Three, and on like that, with Number Seven becoming Number One. So the next night, Cousy comes down, calls out Number Three or something, and half of 'em go one way, half the other. This goes on a while, and I call time out and bring 'em into the huddle, and I say, stick your heads in here close, and they do, and I take my hand and slap 'em one after one like this—bap, bap, bap, bap, bap—and say, all right, it's all wiped out of your minds. From now on, Number One is Number One again, and Number Two Number Two and so on. And then they were fine again. You see, you got to have a dictator." Then he pauses. "I got to stop this reminiscing. You got to make them think you're very modern." He draws on his cigar. There is a constant battle of the senses played out in Red's office between the smell of cigar smoke and the noise of vigorous conversation.
Even getting to the office is something of an adventure. Nowhere on the ground floor of North Station-Boston Garden—they're both located in the same scuzzy old building—is there a clue as to where the world champions' office may be. Only insiders know that you go past The Horse, the old "drinking parlor" on the street, turn down the musty corridor where the vagrant adolescents of Boston are ODing on video games and then weave up the steps where the winos are sitting, brown-bagging it. Turn left at the dark at the top of the stairs.
February 15, 1982
It was always thus. It wasn't only the citizens of Boston who didn't care for the Celtics, even when the Celtics had the greatest player and the greatest coach and the greatest teams of all time. The Celtics' landlords hated the Celtics. For that matter, one couldn't be sure whose side some of the Celtics' owners were on. Auerbach alone was the Celtics—substance and continuity, heart and soul.
The Garden was jealous because the Garden is also the Bruins, but the Bruins were stiffs until Bobby Orr arrived. The Celtics' success made the Bruins look even worse. Still, Boston had a great hockey tradition, and even if the Bruins finished last every year, they could count on big crowds, while the Celtics couldn't draw flies until the playoffs.
After the Celtics' original owner, the sainted Walter Brown, died in 1964, the team switched bosses as regularly as a banana republic. At the height of the glorious Russell run, the Celtics went seven straight seasons, 1963-64 through 1969-70, with different ownership every year. From Brown's death until 1979 when Harry Mangurian—"My best owner since Walter," says Auerbach—assumed full control, there were 11 different ownerships. No wonder Red can play owners every bit as well as he worked the refs. But it wasn't mere personalities he had to juggle. Paychecks sometimes were late. One year, Auerbach had to pledge his personal credit to keep the phones in. Once he had to write a personal check for $9,000 so the fabled Celtics could make a road trip by air. Even when they were in proximate solvency, the Celts had the shorts.
"We did everything right, but without money," Auerbach says. "I'm very proud of that. But it was so frustrating." The famous Celtic black basketball shoes were chosen simply because white shoes got dirtier faster and had to be replaced sooner. During much of the dynasty, the front office consisted of only two full-time employees, RR. man Howie McHugh and a secretary. Then there was a part-time secretary, a gofer and the coach, who moonlighted as the administrative majordomo.
Nobody so successful in sports ever had to learn more angles. Is it possible there are only seven basic plays to life itself? Recently, on a local radio salute to Auerbach, Bill Fitch, the present Celtic coach, told Bruce Cornblatt of WHDH about a State Department tour of the Far East he and Auerbach made a few years ago. In one store, Fitch spotted some beautiful jade at a good price. He pointed it out, but Auerbach just said, "Naw, let's get out of here."
Fitch was unbelieving: "Red, at that price, you've got to look at it."
"It couldn't be any good," Auerbach replied as they walked on, looking for a new store. "Too close to the door." Though no sports executive has ever been shrewder than Auerbach, none has ever been so much a prophet without honor, either as a coach or a general manager. Auerbach won eight NBA championships before he was voted Coach of the Year. The main knock against him was that any rumbum could have won with Bill Russell. And there's some truth in that; probably any competent coach would have won once or twice, maybe three times. Even Russell won two out of three seasons coaching Russell. And Russell has a view: "Red Auerbach is the best coach in the history of professional sports, period."
Dick O'Connell, who ran the Red Sox for many years, was once asked whom he would pick if he could choose any man he wanted to manage the Sox. In a flash O'Connell replied that he would choose Auerbach, and never mind if he knew beans about baseball. Gene Conley, who played for the Sox and Celtics, and Eddie Andelman, who runs Foxboro Raceway, the local trotting track, decided once that they would try to get a state law passed, requiring Auerbach to run the Sox and the Patriots as well as the Celtics. Says Dick Vertlieb, who has been general manager of the Sonics, Warriors and Pacers, "When I came into the league I figured the guy had to be overrated. By the time I left, I wanted him to be commissioner. I started to call Red 'Stradivarius' because he played us all like a fiddle."
As coach and/or general manager, Auerbach won 11 NBA titles between 1957 and 1969. That last club collapsed, but within five years, with only two holdovers, he had built a new championship squad, good enough to win in '74 and '76. By 1978-79 the Celtics had faded again, to a 29-53 record, second worst in the league; only two years after that, the Celtics, 100% overhauled from the last title team, were champions once more.
Who could challenge Auerbach's record? John McGraw, who managed the old Orioles and Giants, would be a good candidate; still, his record of three world championships pales before Auerbach's. Even with a lot more time in grade, George Halas and Connie Mack, who like Auerbach were on-the-field and off-the-field bosses, can't approach Red. Branch Rickey created the farm system and built Cardinal and Dodger champions; George Weiss with the Yankees and Sam Pollock with the Canadiens had long-running championship acts. But Auerbach can match them all with the Russell teams and then top them with what he has accomplished since.
Make no mistake, though: The reason the Celtics have kept winning, the reason Auerbach has never let up on them, has been that there have been more than natural enemies aligned against his team. There were his owners, his building, his city, and that kept him meaner and leaner. It was Auerbach and his Celtics—"the Guys" was all Russell ever called them—against the world. Auerbach is a Russian immigrant's son, propelled by conflicting amounts of Jewish angst and Brooklyn feistiness. Lighting the famous victory cigar when a win was assured was a message to a much larger world than the one that sat on the opposition's bench. And triumph only fed upon itself. "It's easy to get people to commiserate with you when you're finishing third or fourth all the time," Fitch says (probably holding up a shiny new mirror to his own face as he talks about Auerbach), "but when Red was first every year, there was no one there to care about him."
When those who know Auerbach at all well talk of him, they first cite his loyalty. It is fierce. The tales are legion. The hardest thing he ever had to do was to fire Tommy Heinsohn, one of his son figures, as coach. Who, after Auerbach (938-479, .662), has the best coaching record—using the NBA's standard of 420 or more victories—in history? Heinsohn (427-263, .619). Just this year Red yanked the Celtics' radio rights from a clear-channel station in favor of a lesser outlet, partly because of what he felt was mistreatment by that station of members of the Celtic family. Old Celtics are never forgotten. Red gets them jobs, saves their jobs, loans them money. Beneath that gruff exterior....
One recent day John Havlicek's wife was in Florida, his kids were in school, so Havlicek just came by to shoot the breeze and show Auerbach a new remote control telephone that he'd bought. Red said a) he must have gotten beaten on the price, and b) who but an atomic scientist could learn to operate it? Havlicek protested in vain and left shaking his head. As soon as he was gone, Red beamed. "They come by all the time." In his playing days, Russell was never more than "cordial" with Auerbach, but once, when Wilt Chamberlain went after Red, Russell jumped in front of Wilt and snarled: "You've got to get through me to get him."
And yet, loyalty is often a curious quality when it is the prime one. Then it can have an edge to it. Jeff Cohen, 39, the general manager of the Kansas City Kings, is a lifelong friend of Auerbach's and worked for him in the Celtics' front office for 16 years. "Red's first reaction to almost anything is to be self-protective, even suspicious," Cohen says. "If I came to him with any new idea, his immediate response was not, how can this help us, but, what are they getting out of us?" Red makes the rules. Whenever he shot baskets with his players, he determined the spot—the handicap. Protests to no avail. It's no different in negotiations. Says Bob Woolf, Larry Bird's agent, "Negotiating with Red is so hard because he starts off with a figure, which he thinks is fair, and then he's hurt if you dare think otherwise. And worse, for me, I always believe that he's completely sincere." And as might be expected of a man of such strong loyalty, Auerbach has a long memory.
A scene from the mid-'60s: The Celtics have just won another title from the Lakers—Red's fourth or fifth or seventh in a row, one of them—and the sunshine fans, momentarily adoring their Celtics, are swarming onto the court. A young network television producer (the league would have killed for network exposure in those days) finds Auerbach. Red doesn't recognize him. The young man touches Auerbach's arm and tells him: "We need you up in the booth right away, Red."
Auerbach brushes the fellow's hand off his jacket, as he might flick away cigar ash. Then he looks the producer in the face. "Where were you guys in February?" he says. The TV man stutters. Auerbach tells him he'll be with his February people, the Guys and his writers.
A few years later, Auerbach was invited to address the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce at a fancy luncheon. "Let me start by saying this is not quite an honor my being here," he began his speech. "I haven't had too much regard for the Chamber of Commerce over my years in Boston. When the Celtics won 11 championships in 13 years, it was promptly ignored in their own town."
And then, what the hell, just to twist the knife: "The Bruins...a household word around Greater Boston, but mention Bruins 50 miles from this city and people immediately think of UCLA."
And yet, as blunt as Auerbach can be, he's ever careful, he's always on guard. What so often appeared as mad, spontaneous behavior was, in fact, calculated. And maybe it's his fault that he spawned a whole generation of ref-baiting coaches, but don't blame Red for their not getting it right. "They saw all the ranting and raving, but they didn't understand how I picked my spots," he says.
One night several weeks ago Fitch apologized to Auerbach for doing a rotten job of coaching. Fitch had blown a home game to the Bulls. Auerbach liked that; it showed Fitch's self-security and candor and intelligence. "I wasn't going to say anything," Red said after he left Fitch, "but he's right: He was terrible tonight. But I'm realistic enough to know that coaches will have bad days just like anybody else. Now, if I had been Fitch tonight, I would have got thrown out. Maybe it would've got the team mad. But I would've just turned it over to somebody—anybody—and said, hey, it's yours. You've got to do better than me."
For all his renowned brusqueness, Auerbach has always been a closet diplomat; he never puts all his eggs in one basket. At a certain point in every game he coached, he would start thinking about the next game. "It's like they say at the track," he says. "Anybody can beat a race, but beat the races? There's a big difference between winning a game and winning games." Even now, Auerbach tiptoes around the subject of John Y. Brown, who was briefly the owner of the Celtics, and who treated Auerbach with less respect and more mean-spiritedness than anyone ever has.
When Brown bought the club in 1978 (with Mangurian as his quiet partner), he ran roughshod over Auerbach, dealing on his own, even trading precious first-round draft choices to obtain a player that the new Mrs. Brown was partial to. One day when Brown was in Boston, he appropriated Auerbach's desk, in Red's presence, and then he looked up and said condescendingly, "Red, why don't you leave so I can go to work?" On another occasion, after a Celtic loss, a crowd of old friends gathered in Auerbach's office, as is the case following every home game. Brown, who had come along too, was whining "like a little boy who couldn't have his ice cream," according to a former Celtic who was there. And then, when he saw Auerbach, Brown sneered and said, "Well, here comes the living legend now. Say something smart for us, living legend."
The room fell silent; no one could even look at Auerbach. But Red bit his lip. It was one game; there would be other games. Says the old player who was there, "I know it's hard to feel sorry for Red Auerbach, but you couldn't help but want to cry for that man."
Still, when Brown ran for governor in 1979 and the press in Kentucky besieged Auerbach with inquiries, Red's policy was to reply politely that he had no interest in politics.
By that time, though, Auerbach had revived an old standing offer to take over the Knicks, and used it to back Brown into a corner. "If I had left Boston because of him, they'd have run John Y out of town on a rail, and he knew it," Auerbach says. At last, in the spring of 1979, Red delivered an ultimatum to Mangurian: Buy Brown out by Monday or Auerbach was gone to Gotham. Brown sold. Having done his turn with the Boston Celtics, who were 29-53 during his ownership, Brown returned to the Bluegrass to take care of Kentucky; now, it's said, he has his eye on the United States of America.
When Brown left, the Celtics were in disarray. Auerbach had made a succession of abominable first-round draft choices—Steve Downing, Glenn McDonald, Tom Boswell, Norm Cook; Heinsohn, worn out, in aimless retreat, had at last been fired; what was left, a ragtag troop of unlikely Celtics, sulked and smelled of mutiny. Bob Ryan, the much-respected pro basketball writer for the Globe, wrote, "For 20 years the Celtics stood for something. The only thing they stand for now is the anthem."
There would be some backing and filling for another season—as Boston awaited the arrival of Larry Bird, the Hoosier messiah, whom Auerbach had picked as a junior-eligible draftee in '78. Meanwhile, Red did some revamping and, for the first time, went outside the Celtic family for a coach. "It was time for new ideas," he admits. Two college guys—Bobby Knight and Hugh Durham—turned him down, so he went to Fitch, who had been coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then, in the fall of 1979, came Bird and victory. The people of Boston at last saw the light and began lining up for tickets down in the dark and dirty shadows outside The Horse drinking parlor. The Celtics could sell out with season tickets now. But Auerbach won't permit that. He cuts the season sale off so there are about 2,500 tickets available for each game. He remembers that when the Bruins owned the winter in Boston, they practically sold out every summer. At least the kids can get to see the Celts.
"All those kids we gave clinics for finally grew up," Auerbach says. "It's just like anything. People made such a big deal out of us using a first-round choice for Bird and having to wait a year until we got anything to show for it. But I've found time goes by quickly. I admit. I never was super at running the office. I figured, if I just ran the ball club right, it would all take care of itself."
In a way, it took Boston as long to learn about basketball as it did Auerbach to learn about promotion. But then: "Promotion. I remember in St. Louis, Benny Kerner [the owner of the Hawks] used to have those big bands all the time at the Hawks games. Duke Ellington, the big names. And he got good crowds. But then they got to expect the big bands, and when Benny didn't have one, they wouldn't come out just to see the basketball. Promotion? If I had played dull ball, basketball would've died here. What about that? Isn't that promotion? It was close enough." If the merchandise is good, don't put it by the door.
In his 65th year, Arnold Jacob Auerbach's personal habits are as peculiar as ever. At the age of one, his mother gave him an egg. Didn't like it, thank you. Hasn't had an egg since. A few years later, mother gave him a sip of coffee. Didn't like it. Coffee hasn't touched his lips since. Subsists mostly on Chinese food, heavy on the black bean sauce. Breakfast, more often than not, consists of leftovers he took home in a Pekingese bag the night before. And crack another Coke. For variety, a little deli.
And Auerbach has maintained a complete separation between family and work. "When I go home, I go home," he says. Home isn't Boston; never has been. Home is Washington; has been since he left Brooklyn—where he was a second-team All-Borough guard—to attend George Washington University. He and Dorothy have been married for nearly 41 years and have a lovely condominium on Massachusetts Avenue (a coincidence). One of his two grown daughters, who's divorced, lives almost next door with his only grandchild, another girl. The Guys have always been in Boston.
Up there, for years, Auerbach kept a drab suite at The Lenox Hotel. Now he lives, hardly more opulently, at the Pru Center, in an apartment large enough for a bed and a bath and a refrigerator for the chicken wings and Cokes. "What else do I need?" he asks. "It's like a lot of these general managers. When I travel, I get a simple hotel room. I don't need a suite. I wouldn't have the nerve. Besides, what the hell did I ever have to do to impress anybody?"
It's a special point of pride with Auerbach that he has wasted little money over the years. "Having money is easy. Knowing how to spend it is the trick," he says. "And therein lies the difference between a good businessman and an ego." It seems Auerbach has devoured so much Chinese food, sometimes now he sound like Confucius say. He estimates the Celtics have spent about one-tenth as much on scouting as virtually all of their competitors. "So, sure, you might miss one guy occasionally out in Texas, but it's not how many players you see, it's making the right decisions on the ones you do see." Confucius say.
Of course, Auerbach has made some concessions to the here and now. Fitch is permitted to have two assistants, just like losing teams do. When Red was coaching, he, like most of his NBA colleagues, worked as a single; he still prides himself that he could remember the number of fouls that all players on both teams had. Confucius continue:
"The key to coaching is not what you tell 'em, it's what they absorb. Too many coaches today overcoach. They have to make it more complicated to justify all the assistants. And none of 'em know change of pace. They think they have to yell all the time. But you got to vary it.
"And then, almost every team convinces itself that each new player is the millennium—and pays him like that, too. But the chemistry is more important than a man. You get enough intangibles, they become a tangible and put points on the board. [Underscored for easy transferral to fortune-cookie slips.] When I scout, I scout the player; I don't care what patterns and plays his team has. Everybody in the league knew the Celtic plays, and what good did that do them?
"It's amazing how much people don't see. Near the end of his career Russell asked me one time what percentage of rebounds did I think were taken beneath the rim. You know the answer? Ninety percent. I watched. Russell was right. Why do you think relatively short guys like [Paul] Silas and [Wes] Unseld who couldn't jump much got so many rebounds? Timing, position, reaction, anticipation. Also, they should measure guys with their arms over their head. A 6'10" guy with short arms isn't 6'10"."
A couple of weeks ago, Auerbach was sitting in his office, blending into his chair, when the phone rang. It was one of his old players calling, needing two for Friday, for the Sixers. Red gave him a little obligatory grief and told him the pair would be waiting. Then he reached into his sport jacket for another cigar. He's a sport jacket guy, heavy on the Windsor knot. He bought a bunch of suits when he gave up coaching, to look more like an executive, but it didn't take. He tried a pipe, once, too, but that didn't fly either. And now, Celtic fans, Red Auerbach is lighting up his victory pipe! No: Put it over there with the eggs and coffee.
But Auerbach has never lost a step. The ones who lose a step with age are the ones who had been a step ahead. Those steps you can lose. But Red was always more a step to the side and up a little riser. Those steps you can keep. Auerbach's first full-time job was as a physical-education teacher at Washington's Roosevelt High, where he cut Bowie Kuhn from the basketball team. He found that kids kept bringing in doctor's notes, testifying that they didn't have to take PE, but could take the period off and hang out. Auerbach knew he was being snookered, so he made a rule that even if a kid had a note from the director of the National Institutes of Health, he at least had to suit up and take a shower at the end of the period. Pretty soon, every kid was working out the whole period, because if you had to take a stupid shower, you might as well work up a sweat. "It's all just like basketball," he says. "They'll challenge you and you got to find ways to get back at them."
Auerbach was a pro coach at 29, barely older than many of his players. Except for a few months in 1949 when he was an assistant at Duke, he has been with the league since its inception, as the Basketball Association of America in 1946; Philadelphia publicist Harvey Pollack is the only other survivor. By his measure, this means Auerbach has lasted through almost six generations of pro ball, because he believes a basketball generation spans six years and to survive as a coach or a player you must appreciate that.
"By the time that many seasons pass, you've got to change some of your philosophy," he says. "Now, I'm not saying that if they go in for disco dancing you have to go in for disco dancing. But you must adjust. Check a lot of good coaches around six years or so. They have a tendency to go down the tube for a while. Then the smart ones change.
"The players I had for six years, I could detect changes in them, too, at that point. A lot of people think that the veterans influence the rookies. But not necessarily. The smart pros will pick up something from the new kids. You don't think [Isiah] Thomas and [Kelly] Tripucka aren't showing the Pistons something new? Think about that: If it wasn't the case, we'd still be playing like 40 years ago.
"But that doesn't mean people can be done over. The one thing I've learned is that the problem guys will revert. They'll appear to change if they have to, but as soon as they're secure, they'll revert. The next day, they'll revert. People are people. That's why I'm so careful when I sign a player to a new contract. I'll say: You really happy with this? Think about it. Because don't come back to me to renegotiate. We live with this.
"You used to have to earn your wings every day. But not anymore—I mean basketball or anywhere. But it used to be: No matter how good you'd been, you had to earn your wings every day."
Whatever accommodations Auerbach has made aren't readily apparent. It's surely instructive, though, that he always had great success with older players. He got a few more years out of them, and he never coddled the geezers; he didn't taper them off into retirement. "The issue is how old they are, not the number of minutes they play," he says. It would appear that this maxim is still being applied to the key senior personnel on the Celtic office staff.
"Red is always going to be very jealous of his stature," Jeff Cohen says. "He needs to be in control. Don't think that just because he's older, he'll release his grip on things. He doesn't like being older, either. That's tough for him to accept, especially since no one else will grant the fact that Red Auerbach can possibly be old. Red could never gracefully become an éminence grise."
Auerbach allows that for him the fun is disappearing, but the love is still there. The other day, after a practice that he came by to see, to enjoy, Auerbach stood for a long time watching Tiny Archibald go one-on-one with a rookie. Auerbach seemed to draw something from that; all the time he talked about how much Archibald loved the game; one could quite feel the love going around the place. Still....
"So much of it's changed," Auerbach said. "The writers are all new, and the owners—a good percentage of them. The game was what was fun, but they won't let you enjoy it anymore. They all bring lawyers to the league meetings and then we have to have debates. We used to come by ourselves and talk basketball. But the last time, I even had to make an impassioned plea: Can't we ever come to a meeting and talk about the game? And the way these new faces look at me—like I'm out to get 'em."
"Hey, I don't make that many deals!" He whined that, for effect.
"He's still the best G.M. in sports," says Woolf—and, understand, this is an agent talking. "He's three years in front of everybody else in the game. If Red had accomplished in New York only half of what he has in Boston, they'd have renamed Fifth Avenue after him." If Auerbach does indeed call it quits after next season, if he doesn't renegotiate with himself, he will have to come back to one game in the fall of '83 so they can retire his number. Eighteen of the 188 men who have worn the Celtic green played with the team for at least a generation—six seasons or more. Thirteen of those have had their numbers retired. They are listed on two big banners that hang above the court. Also retired is No. 1, which was assigned, symbolically, to Walter Brown, the team's first owner. Auerbach would be No. 2.
The Boston Garden is packed to the rafters for the ceremony. Auerbach is called out, and here he comes, dressed in seven shades of tan, and the white banner with the big green No. 2 on it starts to rise, and throughout the place, everybody takes out a cigar. Everybody: the fans, of both sexes and all ages, and the ushers, the press, the referees, the TV cameramen. The present Celtics, and their opponents, too, and all the Guys who have come back, 6 and 14, 15, 16, 17, the two 18s, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25. Everybody in the old joint holds up a cigar for the man who has been the most successful at running a professional sports team. There are still a few people left who earn their wings every day.
The Deals Of A Lifetime
Here, in order, are Auerbach's top personnel maneuvers ranked according to the quality of the players involved and the degree of cleverness of the deal. For example, picking John Havlicek as the last man in the first round of the 1962 draft is always rated as a top Auerbachian decision, but given the choices available to him, that wasn't nearly as cagey as many of his other moves.
1) Traded Ed Macauley and the rights to Cliff Hagan to St. Louis for the draft pick that would be Bill Russell (1956).
2) Picked Larry Bird sixth in the first round of the draft, though he was still eligible to play in college for another year (1978). Do you believe in the stars? Bird arrived in the world in the same month, December 1956, and under the same sign, Sagittarius, that Russell arrived in Boston.
3) Traded Bob McAdoo, whom he would have given away, to Detroit for M.L. Carr and two draft choices, which became Kevin McHale and Robert Parish (1979).
4) Traded the draft rights to Charlie Share to Ft. Wayne for the rights to Bill Sharman and Gabby Harris and $10,000, which he used to sign Bob Brannum, thereby getting the Celtics an eight-time All-Star and two regulars (1950).
5) Picked up Don Nelson for nothing after every other NBA team had passed on him (1965). Nelson would play on five Celtic championship teams.
6) 101 Ways To Deal Charlie Scott. Drafted him in seventh round with a throwaway pick when Scott was already committed to ABA (1970). Traded NBA rights to Scott to Phoenix for Paul Silas (1972), the Suns agreeing to continue paying a chunk of Silas' 5125,000 salary for the ensuing four years, during which Silas helped the Celtics win two titles. Traded Paul Westphal and two second-round draft choices to Phoenix for Scott (1975). Westphal became a better player than Scott, but he couldn't pair in the Boston backcourt with Jo Jo White. Later, after Scott had helped lead Boston to the '76 title, he was traded to Los Angeles in a deal in which Red reacquired Don Chaney.
7) Picked Dave Cowens, who would later become the league MVP as a 6'8½" center, as the fourth choice in the first round of the draft (1970).
8) Obtained Bailey Howell from Baltimore even-up for Mel Counts. This deal was so good that the Celtics didn't make another body-for-body trade again for more than eight years (1966).
9) Decided at last minute not to send Red Auerbach to run the N.Y. Knicks (1979).
10) While every other team was searching desperately for an exciting white star, selected Danny Ainge as 31st pick in the draft and then took him away from Toronto Blue Jays (1981). The More Things Change Dept.: In 1952, took Gene Conley in the 10th round because he was supposedly committed to baseball. Though Ainge, who joined Boston after the season began, has been used sparingly, the Celtics and a lot of other teams still regard him as a hot prospect.
11) While every team in the league was convinced Jo Jo White would have to serve a couple of years in the Army, Auerbach drafted him in the first round and got him into the Marine Reserves. In the lineup by December. Semper Addis (1969).
12) As a future draft choice, picked, in the third round, a 6'1" guard who couldn't shoot a lick—K.C. Jones (1956). This was the prototype for the 1968 first-round choice of a 6'5" guard who couldn't shoot—Chaney.
13) Took unknown Sam Jones as last selection of first round (1957).
14) Picked up Arnie Risen for nothing when he was about to retire from Rochester (1955). Risen would back up and school Russell and set the pattern of getting veteran fill-ins at virtually no cost: Clyde Lovellette, Andy Phillip, Carl Braun, Woody Sauldsberry, Willie Naulls, Wayne Embry, Emmette Bryant.