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Arnold "Red" Auerbach

Boston Era Begins

Celtics founder and owner Walter Brown named Auerbach coach for the 1950-51 season. Led by guard Bob Cousy, the Celtics improved from 22-46 to 39-30 in Auerbach's first year. Throughout the 1950s, Boston fielded winning teams but not a champion. The Celtics lacked a big man in the middle. Then, Auerbach made his first major personnel move. Coveting 6-foot-9 center Bill Russell, who led the University of San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA titles, Auerbach in 1956 traded all-star forward Ed Macauley and guard Cliff Hagan to St. Louis for the rights to draft Russell.

Trading two established players, one a star, for a collegiate prospect was a gamble. But the Celtics dynasty began with that deal. Russell's presence gave Boston a balanced lineup. The Celtics won their first championship the following season, defeating St. Louis, ironically, in a climactic seventh game in Boston, 125-123 in double overtime. After falling to the Hawks in the 1958 Finals with Russell injured, the Celtics won the next eight championships, still the record in pro sports. Auerbach gave up coaching in 1966 to become general manager and named Russell player-coach—the first African-American sports coach.

Other crafty deals by Auerbach included picking journeyman forward Don Nelson off the waiver wire for $100 in 1966 (Nelson helped the Celtics win five titles); trading the NBA rights to guard Charlie Scott of the rival American Basketball Association for power forward Paul Silas, only to reacquire Scott three years later (Silas and Scott were teammates on the 1976 title team); drafting Indiana State star Larry Bird in 1978, a year before Bird was available for the pros (Bird, who became one of basketball's all-time greats, carried Boston to three titles); and trading the unwanted Bob McAdoo to the Detroit Pistons in 1979 for two draft picks and the rights to M. L. Carr. (Boston sent those draft picks to the Golden State Warriors for center Robert Parish and a draft choice, which turned out to be Kevin McHale. Parish and McHale helped anchor the Celtics championship teams in the Bird era.)

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Famous Sports StarsBasketballArnold "Red" Auerbach Biography - Born In Brooklyn, Boston Era Begins, Celtics Mystique, Russell First Black Coach, Abrasive Personality