WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2006 -- Red Auerbach, the architect and mastermind behind one of the most dominant franchises in professional sports history, the Boston Celtics, has died at the age of 89.
The cigar-chomping Auerbach was an aggressive, challenging and often explosive mentor who coached 11 Hall of Famers, including Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, and led Boston to 10 Eastern Division titles in 16 years.
What the NBA Commissioner Says
"Red Auerbach was known best for his extraordinary success as an NBA head coach, but his leadership and passion had a profound impact away from the court. Beyond his incomparable achievements, Red had come to be our basketball soul and our basketball conscience. The void left by his death will never be filled. The NBA family extends its sympathy to his daughters Nancy and Randy, and Red's entire family."
What the NBA Coaches Association Says
"On behalf of our Executive Committee, our current active NBA Head and Assistant Coaches and our inactive membership, the NBA Coaches Association mourns the passing of our good friend Coach Red Auerbach. Red was a unique individual whose personality, motivational skills and innovative techniques not only created a true sports dynasty but also created a benchmark for all those individuals who followed him into Head Coaching roles with NBA teams. The Red Auerbach Trophy, given annually to the NBA Head Coach selected as Coach of the Year is, and will remain, the most coveted award for NBA Coaches. The world of sports and especially professional basketball will miss this unique individual. The NBA Coaches Association extends its condolences to the Auerbach family and to the Celtic organization."
What the Basketball World Says
"He never made any pretensions about treating players the same. In fact, he treated everybody very differently. Basically, Red treats people as they perceive themselves. What he did best was to create a forum, but one where individuals wouldn't be confined by the system. And he understood the chemistry of a team. People tend to think teamwork is some mysterious force. It isn't. It can, really, be manufactured, and he knew how to do that, to serve each player's needs. And, people always say you need to know how to win. But that's not enough if you want to keep winning. You also have to know why you win. Red always knew that, too."
"Red Auerbach was one of the most influential people in my life. Not only was he an inspiration to me throughout my career, he became a close friend, as well. There could only be one Red Auerbach and I'll always be grateful for having the opportunity to experience his genius and his dedication to winning through teamwork."
"Red and I share our passion for the game, our drive to master and our philosophy of whatever it takes to win. It would have been a blast playing for him. Red created a constant level of excellence in the NBA and then showed everybody else how it was done."
“This certainly is not a happy day for basketball fans. Red (Aeurbach) was an enormous presence and his contributions to the game of basketball withstood the test of time. During my career, I had the misfortune of having to play against Red and his Celtics. He was an incredible coach who had a unique way of dealing with his players and getting them to play a simplistic, defensive game. His players rallied around him and respected him each and every night. This truly is a passing of a legendary person in the world of basketball.”
“On a personal level, I enjoyed a tremendous relationship with him over the years. Red deserved every accolade he ever earned and he will be missed deeply.”
"I've seen him laugh, I've seen him cry, I've seen him angry, I've seen him celebrate and there's only been one guy with the Boston Celtics who has been there for every championship and that is Red Auerbach."
"Although I can't give you a clear definition, that thing called Celtics Pride does exist. If I tried to express it in a few words, I think it would sound corny. It's much easier for me to tell you who created Celtics Pride. Like the creation of a life it took two people - Red Auerbach and Bill Russell."
"Red was a man who was bigger than life. His impact on the game of basketball and the NBA is immeasurable. He was a huge part of my time in Boston, and for that I am forever grateful. Red will be missed by many, many people. The Celtics will never be quite the same without Red Auerbach."
“I think Arnold was an absolute giant in the field. I have been around a lot of competitive people but his commitment to winning was absolute – nothing was more important. He was relentless and produced the greatest basketball dynasty so far that this country has ever seen and certainly that the NBA has ever seen. This is a personal loss for me; Arnold and I have been together since 1950. I was fortunate that I was able to attend a function with him Wednesday night when he was honored by the United States Naval Memorial Foundation in Washington, and I am so glad now that I took the time to be there and spend a few more moments with him.”
"Nobody has had as much impact on a sport as Red Auerbach had on the game of basketball. He was a pioneer of the NBA. He left his philosophy of winning championships, playing hard and playing as a team with several generations of players. He was truly a great manager of people because he got people to commit to who they were as people and what their role was on the team. He was exceptional at listening and motivating people to put out their very best. In my playing days he once gave me a loaded cigar and six months later I gave him one – that was our relationship. We had a tremendous amount of fun and the game of basketball will never see anyone else like him."
His 938-479 (.662) career coaching record currently ranks fifth all-time in NBA history. His all-time record for wins as a coach (1,037, including playoff victories) was eventually broken by Lenny Wilkens. Auerbach led Boston to 99 playoff victories, third all-time behind Phil Jackson and Pat Riley.
“Today is a sad day for everybody that knew Red, that competed against him, that enjoyed watching him. He was one of the great, if not the greatest coach, in the history of all of basketball. His record speaks for itself. What he did for the Celtics in the time he was there, not only in winning Championships, but creating this incredible tradition that lives on today, will never be matched. We are going to miss him.”
"Most of Red's players were intelligent players. It just kind of naturally followed that you stayed in something you loved. It was easy for most Celtics players to become coaches because of that tutelage and the way Red put things together."
"A lot of things that Auerbach put in place contributed to the Celtics tradition. That only tells you that smart people realize what is successful. As the old saying goes, if it isn't broke..."
"Obviously, this is difficult news for me to accept. Red was my mentor. He had a tremendous impact on me as a basketball player and coach and is responsible for any success that I've had in my career. Any conversation regarding the greatest coaches in NBA history should begin with Red Auerbach. He was pioneer, an innovator and, most notably, an incredible winner. His great accomplishments - such as eight consecutive NBA titles - are simply mind-boggling, hard to fathom and will never be duplicated. He will be sorely missed by everyone in the NBA community. My thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family."
"I was out of the league. The Lakers had waived me in 1965 and I thought my career was finished. No one wanted me. Red is the reason I am what I am today as far as my basketball life goes, and even some of what I am away from the court."
"It is incredible that (the Celtics dynasty) lasted as long as it did, and Red was probably the single biggest factor in that carrying forward. You cannot take away from Russell, Cowens, Bird and those guys, but Red was the one constant throughout."
"That Red could take people from such a diverse background and blend them to the point of getting them to success night in and night out, for many years, is amazing in any setting. He always knew he had to pick his spots. He was a coach, a psychologist, a baby sitter, a tough guy, a boss and he was successful at doing them all."
"Everyone here at the Knicks organization is saddened at the passing of Red Auerbach. When you think of team play, you have to credit Red for developing and perfecting the concept. The incorporation of team play resulted in the ultimate in our business -- championships.
"More importantly, we all compliment his stance on diversifying the NBA. He was a true pioneer, and everyone associated with our sport owe him gratitude."
“This is unfortunate. I knew him very well over the last seven to eight years that I was in Boston. The most amazing thing about him was that at his age, his knowledge of the game was still very good. He was always very aware of what was going on with the team, the organization and players around the league. I got to know his daughters, his doctors and I feel sad for them. This is a sad time for everyone who has been in Boston. He meant so much to the team and to the community. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to have a personal relationship with a guy of his stature.”
“For Boston and the league, we lost an icon who loved the game of basketball, who gave it everything. He is going to be missed, especially in Boston. Every time he walked into the arena, he got a standing ovation.”
"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."
Read Casey's blog
"I think that Red was a positive motivator. That wasn't necessarily his image, because he was always all over the officials, but he really would instill confidence in his players. I think players were not afraid to make mistakes because they knew that red knew they might make mistakes once in a while. I also think he looked for players that had been on winning teams. I think he realized before most people that having a knack for winning is the greatest talent someone could have."
"I've never been around a man who managed men in my life any better than Red Auerbach. Particularly, the egos he had to deal with, the cross cultures he had to deal with and all the variations in the kinds of people that I saw him be associated with."
"Celtics pride begins at the top. You see, Red is the Celtics. And in order to become a real Celtic, you've got to have that first real talk with him."
"He fights for his team, he fights for the league, he fights for his players and he just fought sometimes."
"As a franchise, we’re saddened by the passing of Arnold “Red” Auerbach. His contributions to the game speak for themselves in my opinion. He was at the top of the list as a coach and further at the top of the list as a president/general manager and will be for all-time. He set the tone for professional excellence."
"He understood two things that players - particularly intelligent players that he had - see the game on the floor differently than he did. It was five sets of eyes above and beyond his. It was also important for the players to buy into it and that they had input. That stimulates creative thinking."
"Red was the ultimate team builder. He was a great motivator because he made an attempt to know and understand people. He knew the needs of his players emotionally and mentally. He respected you and your family and made us all welcome to the Celtics family. He had great compassion and created a family environment."
"We were different. We were the only team at the time that had a dress code. We had to travel with shirts and ties. Red made sure the Celtics were different and remained different."
"Winning certainly makes things more fun, and the more fun you are having the more you want to stay with something. So a lot of us have gone on to have a higher education in basketball because of the success of the franchise, ultimately because of Red Auerbach."
What the News Says
"Arnold "Red" Auerbach, who for more than half a century was the combative, competitive, and occasionally abrasive personification of pro basketball's greatest dynasty, the Boston Celtics, died yesterday in the Washington area. He was 89," writes Peter May of the Boston Globe. "In two decades of National Basketball Association coaching, Auerbach won 938 games, a record when he retired in 1966, as well as a record nine NBA championship titles, a number he shares with Phil Jackson."
"Red Auerbach, the outspoken and sometimes outrageous basketball coach who led the Boston Celtics to an unparalleled record of excellence in the 1950s and '60s, and who is acknowledged as one of the greatest coaches in professional sports history, died Oct. 28," writes Matt Schudel of the Washington Post.
What the Columnists Say
"His voice was weak and hoarse. Ever since Red Auerbach’s last appearance in Boston at an April 14 game, when he presented the award that bears his name to Paul Pierce, the Celtics patriarch’s beloved public has been keenly aware of his frail state."
"We were so lucky. We had Red Auerbach for nearly 57 NBA seasons. We had his genius, his rough, old-school charm, and his Brooklyn-learned street smarts. And we lost him yesterday. At the age of 89. Just four days before the start of another Celtics season. Red was the Celtics. Sure, we had Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, and the rest. But Red was the Celtics. He delivered 16 championships to our town."
"The cigar has gone out. But the flame of Red Auerbach, who brightened and illuminated the NBA for 57 years, will never be extinguished. Auerbach, the greatest non-playing figure in professional basketball history and likely the most successful coach and team executive in NBA history, died Saturday at 89."
"It was his time yesterday. He was 89 when his heart finally gave out. So he will not make another NBA opener this year.
That means this will be the first season in NBA history that opens without Arnold (Red) Auerbach. He was there when the league opened for business in 1946 and he was a part of that league all the way until yesterday. There has never been anybody bigger than this in the history of American sports."
"Growing up in Boston in the '70s and '80s, we possessed three treasures that nobody else had: Fenway, the Garden and Red. He was our trump card. He had mystical powers. He made things happen. He fleeced other teams. He found diamonds in the rough. He intimidated officials. He stamped his winning imprint on everyone and everything."
"Goodbye to the one and only Red. There's little remaining of the dynasty Red Auerbach built. The Celtics mystique is a memory and Boston Garden has been torn down."