There will be a lot written and produced about basketball legend Red Auerbach in the coming days. The Celtics will dedicate this season to him and there will be innumerable tributes. For years Auerbach held the record for season wins (938) and playoff wins (99) by a coach. In season wins, heâ€™s been passed by Lenny Wilkins (1332), Larry Brown (1239), Don Nelson (1190), Pat Riley (1151), Jerry Sloan (984) and Bill Fitch (944). Phil Jackson (179), Pat Riley (179) and Larry Brown (120) have all passed him in playoff wins.
As a coach and general manager, Auerbach, who was an amazing judge of talent and mentor of players, won 16 NBA Championships. That record may never be broken.
But there are things that numbers just canâ€™t measure. Auerback was the first playerâ€™s coach and he created teams that seemed more like families than a group of guys playing basketball. They were great teams loaded with hall of fame players. There was a style that Auerbach hadâ€”the cigar that he lit when he was â€œsureâ€? victory was at hand, the pure love and massive understanding he had for and of the game, and the way heâ€™d outline last second plays during a timeout that would win the game. He was fiery, he was organized and he was professional. He set a standard not only as a coach but also as someone associated with a sport that was simultaneously defined by the playground and boardroom. He lived in an era when the NBA and the game of basketball needed a brilliant innovator. And he stepped up and, this little guy from Brooklyn NY, who never lost that dialect and whose players seemed to tower over him, rose to the top.
You should never use the word â€œgeniusâ€? lightly. But Auerbach was one of them. And, at the same time, he was simply a guy who wore plaid, taught the pick-and-roll and never lost interest in life and the game he defined and loved. Guys loved playing for him. Just look at how many of them became successful in the sport after their playing days were over. Iâ€™ll give you 10 to 1 that Red has got a pick up game going on somewhere right now.
Oh, yeah, and his team’s going to win.