Coach’s Corner: Don Casey on Red Auerbach
By Don Casey
By the time I arrived on the Celtic coaching scene as an assistant to Chris Ford in 1995-1998, the banners were hanging  to honor those who achieved the title World Champions and Red was still running the show. His finger prints were everywhere - you knew such and saw such - the franchise was efficient, folksy and seasoned from the demands of excellence set forth by Red. In the same breath all were family members and Red was their 'Godfather'
Meeting and greeting those in the front office was interesting - with oldest in their 40's, most have been there for 15 years!!! Think about that, most began as ticket sellers, others were interns. But they were taught and directed by Red. As time moved on, all moved up into positions of importance to keep the franchise 'flowing.' Talk about 'loyalty' you did not - it was felt /assumed that no one was going to let Red or the franchise down or second guess anything, anywhere at any time. How many coaches would love to work under those circumstances - all would.
As the French say, 'Despite all the changes - things remain the same.' This is true, especially with the game, tactics, commitment to the task on hand [winning games] coaching, playing. One still must be able to put the ball thru the hoop and one must limit the opposition from doing such. However, the French proverb had not been tested by 'corporate ownership' of a storied franchise as the Celtics when the test results came forth - the corporate world failed, then and now. How can this happen? Or why does it happen. One reason is they have no 'feel' for the game. The sport and all its components, in many ways the feel is 'magical' you just have it, and that was Red. He had it and made it look easy, which led to the belief that - `Hey I can do that' - I have made zillions in business and it's just another business. Wrong, wrong. If the 'feel' is not there, who is to tell a zillionaire?
Everyone wanted to meet Red - young and old sports fans and/or just those who respected excellance/tradition and 'how to win.' His self-created Boston Celtics - [the envy of all, coupled with the disliked for many]. Ah! jealously does rear it's ugly head. But when one is an icon, you deal with it . Red's dealing with jealously was 'just win again,' keep them in their place, which happened with his leadership over and over again.
To demonstrate his hidden side [compassion -nothing but a Big Bear], after the Oklahoma City bombing an event [cocktail party] meet-and-greet was being organized by members of the Secret Service. Why? They lost eight agents whose office was located in the bombed building and wanted to aid the surviving families for future financial responsibilities, a worthy one-time endeavor being held in Washington D.C. Problem? For some reason the word was not getting out and attendance looked to be low. I have friends in the Service, two who were on the President's detailand knowing Red lived in Washington, asked 'Do you think Red would help by attending the reception and we can announce his forthcoming attendance?' With no guarantees I called and explained the situation, and way before one could finish - Red said `Where, what time and you come down from Boston - you're the driver.' OK Boss. When Red's attendance was announced, that was it. It brought attention to the event and knowing that Red would be there - it was a sellout!
Next time the Celtics were in D.C., Red and I where invited by the Secret Service to have lunch at the White House mess - a thank you for making the event extremley successful. As usual, I was the driver and along for the ride and the meal. In 'the White House, as the meal was concluding word came that Vice President Al Gore wanted to meet Red since he went to the first school that Red coached (St. Martin's High School of D.C.) and Red was in the building! Up we go to meet Mr.Gore and a fine visit it was as the meeting concluded word comes down that President Bill Clinton wants to meet Red in the Oval Office. Wow, I say; meeting the President and Vice President in the same time frame. The President was a knowledgeable basketball fan, supporting Arkansas and then following those who made it to the NBA. So he watched many a game. While the three of us were alone in the Oval Office, the President and Red talked basketball. I looked about, knowing Churchill, Ike, JFK, Roosvelt along with many others had once been in this same room .
Now it's Coach Casey. Then the voice rang out - 'Where's the jacket?.' Outside was the response. With a grousing look from Red, I quickly retrieved a 'brillant green' Celtic jacket and gave it to the President. Upon leaving, sitting waiting for the President was Bill Gates. Tthe Secret Service whispered that Red took Gates' appointment time at the last' minute. What a day with Red - meet the Vice and President and then Bill Gates all within 15 minutes and with no appointment. That's power my friend.
He was a good man, tough to take at times, very demanding - then praising - crusty - but he had his boys who gathered each Tuesday at the China Doll in D.C. from 11 a.m. until lunch was finished, or should I say when Red was finished. Always paying for the check when he rose to do so, all did likewise -for it is time to go - see you next week.
An era is ended, gone never to return. Despite all the chages that happened, Red made sure that the important areas remained the same. Basketball - Celtic Basketball. And for that, the world is grateful. Red, you taught us how to play the game, and when your own personal game of life was coming to an end, you again taught us - how to die - the most important lesson of all. Thanks Coach.