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Arnold "Red" Auerbach

Celtics Mystique

Auerbach, who espoused the team-first concept, realized synergies long before the word was in vogue. "He was known for picking the right players, coaching them and keeping them in line with his system," Lisette Hilton wrote on the ESPN Classic Web site.

For instance, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors and 76ers (and later the Los Angeles Lakers), Russell's longtime rival at the center position, often outscored Russell head-to-head and had better individual statistics. But under Russell, the Celtics won eleven titles in thirteen years; Chamberlain was a champion but twice, and only once while Russell played.

"Our pride was never rooted in statistics," Auerbach once said. He would on occasion, however, play the numbers game as a form of one-upmanship. In the mid-1960s he announced the signing of Russell to a contract that paid $1 more than Chamberlain (and enabled Russell to talk his way out of a $2 fine for arriving late to a practice).

Auerbach also mixed in the likes of gritty forwards Tom Heinsohn and Jim Loscutoff; guard K.C. Jones, a college teammate of Russell's who became one of the NBA's premier defensive guards; and backcourt man Sam Jones (no relation to K.C.) out of unheralded North Carolina A&T, referred to Auerbach by word of mouth. Cerebral forward-guard John Havlicek and forward Tom Sanders integrated nicely with Auerbach's system; Havlicek, best known for stealing the ball to save a playoff series against Philadelphia in 1965, achieved legendary status over his sixteen years.

Auerbach's "sixth man" was first substitute. He did not always start the best five players; the most suitable five, however, finished, the first reserve often among them. Frank Ramsey was the first sixth man—later, Havlicek, McHale and Bill Walton filled those roles capably under Auerbach and subsequent coaches.

"When I came to the Celtics there was this Celtic mystique. And I was one of the few skeptics," said Silas, who came to Boston in 1973 and played on two champions (and a third in Seattle). "I went up to Red and said, 'Now I understand what the Celtic mystique is.'"

"Hey, I made my share of mistakes," Auerbach told Simmons. "One time I drafted a kid named Bill Green, helluva player … but he wouldn't fly! There was no way he could play in the league."

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