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Legendary Basketball Coach Red Auerbach Dies At 89 Years Old


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Legendary Celtics coach Auerbach dead at age 89

ESPN.com news services

WASHINGTON -- Red Auerbach, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA championships in the 1950s and 1960s, died Saturday. He was 89.

Auerbach won 938 games with the Celtics and was the winningest coach in NBA history until Lenny Wilkens overtook him in the 1994-95 season. As general manager, the straight-talking Auerbach, who celebrated victories with a postgame cigar, was also the architect of Celtics teams that won seven more titles in the 1970s and 1980s.

Red Auerbach has been a mainstay at Celtics games for years.

Auerbach's death was announced by the Celtics, for whom he still served as team president. The team said the upcoming season would be dedicated in his honor.

He died of a heart attack near his home in Washington, according to an NBA official, who declined to be identified because the family had not made an official announcement. His last public appearance was on Wednesday, when he received the U.S. Navy's Lone Sailor Award in front of family and friends in ceremonies in Washington.

"Red was a guy who always introduced new things," Steve Pagliuca, a Celtics managing partner, told The Associated Press in an interview this month. "He had some of the first black players in the league and some people didn't like that, but you've got to do what's right for the fans. So I think we tried to do things thoughtfully. We didn't come in here and change everything overnight."

Born Arnold Auerbach in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Sept. 20, 1917, Auerbach was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968.

"I never thought he'd die," said author John Feinstein, who last year collaborated on a book with Auerbach on the coach's reflections of more than 70 years in basketball. "He was a unique personality, a combination of toughness and great, great caring about people. He cared about people much more than it showed in his public face, and that's why people cared about him."

With the Celtics, he made deals that brought Bill Russell, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale to Boston. He drafted Larry Bird a year early when the Indiana State star was a junior to make sure Bird would come to Boston. The jersey No. 2 was retired in Auerbach's honor during the 1984-85 season.

He coached championship teams, including eight straight from 1959 through 1966, that featured players such as Russell, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Bill Sharman, K.C. Jones and Sam Jones, all inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Phil Jackson matched Auerbach's record nine championships when the Los Angeles Lakers won the title in 2001-02.

After stepping down as general manager in 1984, Auerbach served as president of the Celtics and occasionally attended team practices into the mid-1990s, although his role in the draft and personnel decisions had diminished.

When Rick Pitino became coach in 1997, he also took the president's title and Auerbach became vice chairman of the board. After Pitino resigned on Jan. 8, 2001, Auerbach regained the title of president and remained vice chairman.

The team was sold on Dec. 31, 2002, to a group headed by Wyc Grousbeck and Auerbach stayed on as president.

Through all those titles, Auerbach didn't lose his direct manner of speaking, such as when he discussed the parquet floor of the Boston Garden shortly before the Celtics' longtime home closed in September 1995.

"The whole thing was a myth," Auerbach said. "People thought not only that there were dead spots, but that we knew where every one was and we could play accordingly.

"Now, did you ever watch a ballplayer go up and down the court at that speed and pick out a dead spot?" he asked. "If our players worried about that, thinking that's going to help them win, they're out of their cotton-picking mind. But if the other team thought that: Hey, good for us."

As Celtics president, Auerbach shuttled between Boston and his home in the nation's capital, where he led an active lifestyle that included playing racquetball and tennis into his mid-70s.

Auerbach underwent two procedures in May 1993 to clear blocked arteries. He had been bothered by chest discomfort at various times beginning in 1986.

Auerbach was also hospitalized a year ago, but he was soon active again and attended the Celtics' home opener. Asked that night what his thoughts were, he replied in his usual blunt manner: "What goes through your mind is, 'When the hell are we going to win another one?' I mean, it's as simple as that."

Auerbach had planned to be at the Celtics' 2006-07 opener, in Boston next Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets.

In his 16 seasons as Boston's coach, he berated referees and paced the sideline with a rolled-up program in his clenched fist. The cigar came out when he was sure of another Celtics' victory.

He had a 938-479 regular-season coaching record and a 99-69 playoff mark.

Auerbach had a reputation as a keen judge of talent who always seemed to get the best of trades with fellow NBA coaches and general managers.

In 1956, he traded Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan to St. Louis for the Hawks' first-round pick and ended up with Russell -- probably the greatest defensive center of all time and the heart of 11 championship teams.

In 1978, he drafted Bird in the first round even though he would have to wait a year before the forward could become a professional.

Before the 1980 draft, the Celtics traded the top choice to Golden State for Parish and the third choice. The Warriors took Joe Barry Carroll. The Celtics chose McHale.

In 1981, Boston chose Brigham Young guard Danny Ainge in the second round. Ainge was playing baseball in the Toronto Blue Jays organization at the time, but was freed after a court battle to play for the Celtics.

In June 1983, another one-sided deal brought guard Dennis Johnson from Phoenix for seldom-used backup center Rick Robey.

Auerbach attended Seth Low Junior College in New York and George Washington University. His playing career was undistinguished. In three seasons at George Washington he scored 334 points in 56 games -- a 6.0 average. He would often attend games at GW's Smith Center.

He was an instant coaching success, posting the best record of his career in his first season. He led the Washington Capitols to a 49-11 mark in 1946-47, the NBA's debut season, and took them to the playoff semifinals.

The Capitols had winning records the next two seasons under Auerbach, who moved on to the Tri-Cities Blackhawks for one season in 1949-50. They had a 28-29 mark, Auerbach's only losing record in 20 years as an NBA coach.

In the NBA's first four seasons, the Celtics never had a winning record. But Auerbach changed that dramatically when he succeeded Alvin "Doggy" Julian as Boston's coach for the 1950-51 campaign.

They went 39-30 that season, and the Celtics never had a losing record in his 16 seasons as coach. Boston never had a winning percentage below .611 in his last 10 seasons.

His last game as coach was on April 28, 1966, when Boston edged the Lakers 95-93 in Game 7 of the finals to win the NBA title. He was just 48 years old, but ready to move on.

On Feb. 13 of that season, Auerbach was honored at halftime of a loss to Los Angeles at Boston Garden.

"They say that losing comes easier as you grow older," he said after the game. "But losing keeps getting harder for me. I just can't take it like I used to. It's time for me to step out."

Russell became player-coach the next season, while Auerbach concentrated on his job as general manager. Russell was the first of five Boston coaches who had played for Auerbach.

Auerbach is survived by two daughters, Nancy Auerbach Collins and Randy Auerbach; his granddaughter, Julie Auerbach Flieger, and three great-grandchildren.

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But i have to care for a 85 year old man...Red was blessed/lucky...

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