less than 1 minute read

Arnold "Red" Auerbach

Russell First Black Coach

Though Russell's appointment as coach in 1966 broke pro sports' coaching racial barrier, Auerbach didn't see it that way. "When I retired, I said there is no better man to coach Russell than Russell," Auerbach told USA Today in February, 2002. "He was given the job strictly because of merit. Him being black or white was never thought of, hinted at or discussed." Still, Auerbach opened the door for a black to coach, and at the beginning of the 2002-03 season, there were 13 black coaches in the 29-team league.

Naming Russell was more Auerbach's way of staying internal. Auerbach or one his former players coached all Boston's championships, except Bill Fitch in 1981. Russell, after the Philadelphia 76ers broke Boston's string of eight straight titles in 1967, led the Celtics back to supremacy the following two years before retiring. Heinsohn and K.C. Jones also coached them to a pair of titles apiece. "I needed Red to push me back sometimes," Russell said. "But he did it in a way I could understand, and I wasn't offended by it."

Additional topics

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