To yours truly, Red Auerbach was the best basketball coach in history as he not only coached but also was the general manager who had to wheel and deal to get the players he wanted for the Celtics. Guile, loyalty to players and innovation to the max regarding how basketball should be played was Auerbach's genius, something I see reflected in how Geno Auriemma's CT women's team plays, fast, selfless and above all else, ruthlessly efficient ball.
Time and again you hear Celtics describing Red as "a player's coach." To the world outside his own huddles and locker room he was ornery and miserable, a boisterous dynamo who peered at you through cigar smoke after his troops had impaled yours.
But not with his own players. He supported them. He had their backs. They knew it, so they did everything to please him. He emphasized people far more than X's and O's.
"Red Auerbach convinced his players that he loved them," said Earl Lloyd, the NBA's first African-American player. "So all they wanted to do was please him."
It was the best way of getting the maximum from his squad. He did it to squeeze even the slightest of advantages from situations. Sure, he could be the consummate actor on the sidelines -- waving his arms, stomping his feet, tearing at his hair. He received more fines and was thrown out of more games than any other NBA coach. He was even tossed out while coaching the All-Star Game in San Francisco's Cow Palace in 1967, Rick Barry recalled with a laugh.
Guile was also a factor.
"We were good, but hadn't won yet," Cousy said. "But I remember one day in 1956, Red said, 'I think I'm getting a guy that will change things.'"
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.
With Russell in the pivot, the Celtics had a spider-armed, tireless intimidator. He had run track in college and could outrun everyone on the team.
"Russell could change a game without scoring," says Don Nelson, a teammate of Russell's in the 1960s.
Golden State and the Atlanta Hawks are channeling Red along with Pop's San Antonio Spurs. :)
Lastly, read the ESPN piece in it's entirety. It's great sports writing at it's best.