Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
96 years ago today, Hyman and Marie Auerbach celebrated the birth of their son Arnold in Brooklyn, New York. What they didn’t know at the time is that they had given birth to a future professional basketball legend.
The 5 foot 9 Auerbach turned to basketball as a child because that was basically his only sports option in Brooklyn. He excelled as a guard, but always wanted to become a coach. At 29 years-old (take that, Brad Stevens), the Washington Caps in the newly formed BAA hired him to coach their team. Three years later, Red would go to Boston.
From there, Red would go on to engineer some of the most imaginative player transactions in league history. The greatest maneuver, though, came with the help of then owner, Walter Brown.
To get Bill Russell required some legendary maneuvering that would take its place in Celtics lore. Rochester was drafting first, with St. Louis second, and the whole world knew about Russell’s exploits at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and at the University of San Francisco, where his team won 55 straight. Rochester was strong up front and looked to draft Sihugo Green. Brown gave Rochester team manager Les Harrison additional incentive to avoid Russell. If Harrison passed on Russell, Brown would arrange for Rochester to get the touring Ice Capades two weeks later.
Recalled Auerbach: “Walter got him the Ice Capades, and Harrison said, ‘I give you my word that we’ll stay away from Russell.’”
But all this would have been for naught if St. Louis had picked Russell second. Auerbach called Ben Kerner to see if he would make a deal. Auerbach offered All-Star Macauley. Kerner badly needed stars to keep his franchise afloat, so he asked for Cliff Hagan, too. Auerbach agreed.
Red would help the league break numerous color barriers, making the Celtics the first team to have a black player, have an all-black starting 5, and have a black head coach. In 1980, he masterminded yet another brilliant move.
Auerbach dealt the first and 13th picks in the 1980 NBA Draft to Golden State for the third pick in the 1980 Draft and four-year veteran center Robert Parish. The Warriors selected Purdue center Joe Barry Carroll with the first pick and tabbed Mississippi forward Rickey Brown 13th. The Celtics took forward Kevin McHale of Minnesota, and thus added Parish and McHale to a frontcourt that already featured Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell. In one trade, Auerbach had acquired a frontcourt for the next decade.
Red passed away in October of 2006. The architect of the greatest franchise this sport has ever seen still influences the Celtics to this day, though. He has created a long line of legends who continue to work with and for the team. Even Danny Ainge is heavily influenced by what Red did and didn’t do as an executive.
That translates to today, as the Celtics embark on the next iteration of what we hope is greatness. We know Red will always be looking over the team, smoking his trademark cigar.
So happy Birthday, Red, and on behalf of all Celtics fans, we thank you for everything you’ve done to make this team what it is.
In other news, “The Tradition” was held earlier this week, which honors local sports figures. The Celtics ownership group was among the honorees, and several Celtics legends were in attendance. Here’s a look at the event courtesy of NH Seacoast TV.
Tommy Heinsohn shows up around the 5:25 mark. He says Celtics are “turning a new page in their history” this year. He loves Kelly Olynyk and says Ainge’s trade with the Nets puts them in good place to make moves with draft picks next few years. Tommy also says he thinks C’s will surprise folks if Rajon Rondo is healthy.
Danny Ainge comes in at the 18:00 mark. The reporter starts off by asking Danny if he’s “excited” to start from scratch again… which gets a laugh, but then Ainge says he loves Stevens and some of the new young players. He says Rondo’s biggest adjustment will be getting “the confidence back in his leg” and that they’ll be “very cautious” with him.
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