Arnold Jacob “Red” Auerbach (September 20, 1917 – October 28, 2006) was an American basketball coach of theWashington Capitols, the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and the Boston Celtics. After he retired from coaching, he served as president and front office executive of the Celtics until his death. As a coach, he won 938 games (a record at his retirement) and nine National Basketball Association (NBA) championships in ten years (a number surpassed only by Phil Jackson, who won 11 in twenty years). As general manager and team president of the Celtics, he won an additional seven NBA titles, for a grand total of 16 in a span of 29 years, making him one of the most successful team officials in the history of North American professional sports.
Auerbach is remembered as a pioneer of modern basketball, redefining basketball as a game dominated by team play and defense and for introducing the fast break as a potent offensive weapon. He groomed many players who went on to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Additionally, Auerbach was vital in breaking down color barriers in the NBA. He made history by drafting the first African-American NBA player, Chuck Cooper in 1950, and introduced the first African-American starting five in 1964. Famous for his polarizing nature, he was well known for smoking a cigar when he thought a victory was assured, a habit that became, for many, “the ultimate symbol of victory” during his Boston tenure.
In 1967, the NBA Coach of the Year award, which he had won in 1965, was named the “Red Auerbach Trophy,” and Auerbach was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969. In 1980, he was named the greatest coach in the history of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America, and was NBA Executive of the Year in 1980. In addition, Auerbach was voted one of the NBA 10 Greatest Coaches in history, was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and is honored with a retired number 2 jersey in the TD Garden, the home of the Boston Celtics.
Among Auerbach’s accomplishments during his 20-year professional coaching career were eleven Eastern Division titles (including nine in a row from 1957–65), 11 appearances in the finals (including ten in a row from 1957–66), and nine NBA championships. With a total of 16 NBA championship rings in a span of 29 years (1957–86) as the Celtics coach, general manager, and team president, Auerbach is the most successful team official in NBA history. He is credited with creating several generations of championship Boston Celtics teams, most notably the first Celtics dynasty with Bill Russell which won an NBA record eight titles in a row (1959–66). As Celtics general manager, he created championship-winning teams around Hall-of-Famers Dave Cowens in the 1970s and Larry Bird in the 1980s. In Auerbach’s honor, the Celtics have retired a number-2 jersey with the name “AUERBACH,” memorializing his role as the second most important Celtic ever, behind founderWalter Brown, in whose honor the number-1 “BROWN” jersey is retired. To honor Auerbach, the Celtics created the Arnold “Red” Auerbach award in 2006. It is an award given annually to the current Celtic player or coach who “best exemplifies the spirit and meaning of what it is to be a Celtic. This award is named in honor of the legendary Coach, General Manager and President of the organization, Arnold ‘Red’ Auerbach.”
Career highlights and awards
As head coach:
9× NBA champion (1957, 1959–1966)
NBA Coach of the Year (1965)
11× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1957-1967)
Top 10 Coaches in NBA History
7× NBA champion (1968–1969, 1974, 1976, 1981,1984, 1986)
NBA Executive of the Year (1980)