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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Goodbye Red

I am remembering a great man today...
I once spoke with Red by telephone. The story is a long one and I won't bore you with the details save for one thing. He was a gentleman. A brilliant sportsman, a legend. I adored Red Auerbach. Thanks for the memories Red.
The Yankees won 25 championships. What did it take them, a hundred years? Red won nine in 10. He was the best coach in the history of professional sports. Period."-- Bill Russell
"He's the greatest manager of men, in all walks of life."-- John Thompson
"He had a touch with people and could get them committed to what he was doing. He made the Celtics into basketball's Cosa Nostra. We believed it was our thing."-- Tommy Heinsohn
"He always let me know that more than anybody else, he knew what I was doing. I really loved working with him. It was almost like we were soul mates."-- Bill Russell
"He's the Godfather of the Celtics."-- John Havlicek
"Arnold knew how to judge talent, he knew how to acquire it, and he knew how to motivate it."-- Bob Cousy
"This is not the passing of a man, it's the passing of an institution."-- M.L. Carr
"I have a lot of fun and fond memories of Red from early in my career. I don't think there's a legend who was as beloved as Red is in Boston."-- Danny Ainge
"Red was a true champion and one whose legacy transcends the Celtics and basketball. He was the gold standard in coaching and civil leadership, and he set an example that continues today."-- Sen. Ted Kennedy
"Boston lost one of its greatest citizens. He cut me from the Celtics, but I've never admired a person more." -- Ray Flynn
BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston remembered legendary basketball coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach on Sunday for his competitive fire and for helping black players and coaches break the sport's color barrier. Auerbach, who died at 89 on Saturday near his home in Washington, coached the Boston Celtics' basketball team during a period in the 1950s and 1960s when it racked up a record eight-straight National Basketball Association championships. At a time when his team dominated the league, Auerbach would often fire up a cigar to celebrate a victory even while a few minutes of play remained. "Red's victory cigar was the original in-your-face taunt," wrote Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy in the paper's Sunday edition. "Celtic rivals despised the gesture and even Red's players dreaded the ceremonial stogie. It just made the other team mad." Bob Cousy, who played for the Celtics under Auerbach in the 1950s and 1960s, said of his former coach: "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." Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said: "Boston lost a legend yesterday with the passing of Red Auerbach. Red was a tremendous leader both on and off the court." While Auerbach was white, several people said he contributed greatly toward breaking the color barrier in a sport that had been a whites-only affair in the United States through the first half of the 20th century. "He was an agent of change, hiring the first African-American coach in all of pro sports, and drafting the league's first African-American player," Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry' said in a statement. In 1950, Auerbach drafted Chuck Cooper, one of the first black players in the NBA, and in 1966 hired Bill Russell as the NBA's first black coach. "He could look beyond the color of the skin, which was something at that time," said Tom Naughton, 50, of Long Beach, New York. Naughton was one of a handful of tourists and locals who stopped by a bronze statue of Auerbach that stands outside Boston's Faneuil Hall, which mourners had decorated with flowers. Visitors said that Auerbach's reputation had extended far beyond the Bay State. "You couldn't miss him. Even in Texas, it seemed the Celtics games were on every weekend," said Kent Roach, 54, of San Antonio, Texas. "They were the original dynasty."
DAN SHAUGHNESSY For decades, he lit up our lives By Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Columnist October 29, 2006 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. We never could pay back all the pride and glory he brought to Boston. We tried. We dedicated a statue to Red a full 21 years before he died. We wrote books about him. We created a scholarship in his honor. We made documentaries about him and held a $500 per plate "Red-fest" at the Bayside Exposition Center. "Most guys have to die to get a tribute like that," Red said, with a chuckle. We were hoping he never would die. As long as Red lived, there was still Celtic tradition, Celtic pride. We were looking forward to seeing him for one more opening night Wednesday at the Garden. It would have been his 57th opener with the Celts. It would have been his 61st opening night with the NBA, a magnificent career that spanned the entire history of the league. But he just missed. In the end, he never lived to see the first Celtic cheerleader. Probably the way he wanted it.

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