2 minute read

Arnold "Red" Auerbach

Internal Battles

Following the Celtics' thirteenth championship in 1976, the team struggled for three seasons, and worse, Auerbach had major problems with owner John Y. Brown (no relation to Walter Brown). Brown, who later became governor of Kentucky, was highly intrusive and even sarcastically addressed Auerbach as "Living Legend" during staff meetings.

The tension escalated in February, 1979, when Brown, reportedly without Auerbach's consent, obtained the talented but troublesome McAdoo from the New York Knicks. Auerbach then considered the unthinkable to Boston fans—an offer as Knicks general manager. "We had a collective heart attack," Simmons wrote. "Red was leaving? He's leaving??? Everywhere he went, people urged him to stay: cab drivers, waiters, gas station attendants, people on the street. He stayed."

Brown's sale of the team to Harry Mangurian made the decision easier. Then, in October, 1979, Larry Bird began another glorious Celtics era, Boston winning championships in 1981, 1984 and 1986.

Seeing Red After All These Years

I watch him gingerly move behind his desk, finally dropping into a chair. Red has trouble walking—hip problems, foot problems, back problems, just problems. Elevators and escalators are two of his favorite things; he lives his life accordingly. He avoids Washington's MCI Center, mainly because the nitwits running that place don't make it easy for him to get around….

"I can't fight the stairs anymore," he says. "I don't like to walk stairs. Things change. I used to smoke 10 of these" … he holds up a Cuban cigar…"every day. Now I'm down to two. You don't get to be 84 years old and not have problems. But I don't want to talk about my problems." …

Before his bypass surgery in '93, Red plowed through cigars like they were Life Savers. Read anything about him, and that's the first thing anyone mentions—the suffocating cigar smoke. Hell, he invented the concept of the victory cigar. There's a famous story about Red lighting one up at Legal Seafoods (restaurant) in Boston during the mid-'80s, when a female customer reproached him, "You can't smoke in here! It says so on the menu!" Red told her to look at the menu again. The menu actually said, "No cigar smoking in here …except for Red Auerbach." Another "W" for Red….

Source: ESPN.com, March 22, 2002.

But after the third championship of the Bird era, tragedy befell the Boston organization. The Celtics drafted Len Bias from the University of Maryland in 1986—Auerbach and Maryland coach Charles "Lefty" Driesell were close friends and Bias had worked as a counselor in Auerbach's summer camp in Marshfield, Mass.—and two days after Boston drafted him second overall, Bias died in Washington, D.C. of a cocaine overdose. Another Celtic would die seven years later when star guard Reggie Lewis collapsed with a heart problem during a playoff game and died during the summer while working out.

Additional topics

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