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Arnold "Red" Auerbach Biography

Born In Brooklyn, Boston Era Begins, Celtics Mystique, Russell First Black Coach, Abrasive Personality


American basketball coach

As a coach and executive, Arnold "Red" Auerbach has directed the Boston Celtics to sixteen National Basketball Association (NBA) championships, the third most in North American professional team sports. Auerbach, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, coached the Celtics to nine titles, including eight straight from 1959-66, and oversaw seven others as general manager and president. The NBA Coach of the Year trophy bears his name. Auerbach, whose Celtics coaching won-loss record was 1,037-548, is renowned for his headstrong personality, shrewd personnel moves and such strategic innovations as the "sixth man." He has survived transient and sometimes meddlesome ownership, and even coups within the Celtics organization.

Auerbach also selected the league's first African-American player (Chuck Cooper), appointed the first black coach in pro sports (Bill Russell) and fielded the first all-black starting five. Auerbach often baited referees, and even got into a fistfight with an opposing team's owner. He celebrated his wins by lighting up a victory cigar. Auerbach also wrote several books, and was a frequent motivational speaker. He was stripped of his title as team president in 1997 when the Celtics named Rick Pitino head coach and chief of basketball operations, but the organization restored it in 2001 when Pitino left. In 2002, an 84-year-old Auerbach saw the Celtics reach the NBA's Eastern Conference playoff finals after having missed postseason play the previous six seasons. Bill Simmons, who interviewed Auerbach for ESPN.com in February, 2002, described Auerbach as "looking like a cross between the Celtics leprechaun, Yoda and God."

Sketch by Paul Burton

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Famous Sports StarsBasketball