From the basketball stars to the championship trophies, see highlights from the life of the legendary Celtics coach.
Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird said Auerbach was “one of the most influential people in my life.”
“There could only be one Red Auerbach,” the former Celtics star said. “And I’ll always be grateful for having the opportunity to experience his genius and his dedication to winning through teamwork.”
Another Auerbach protege who moved on to an NBA front office, Minnesota Timberwolves boss Kevin McHale feared the Celtics will never be the same.
And neither will the rest of the NBA.
“Red had come to be our basketball soul and our basketball conscience,” commissioner David Stern said. “The void left by his death will never be filled.”
Auerbach leaves a legacy of more than five decades in the NBA, but his influence extends throughout the league still. The Boston Globe counted at least 23 current coaches and five general managers who have a connection to the Celtics patriarch — including Rivers, who played for Pat Riley, who played for Bill Sharman, who played for Auerbach.
“It’s a great honor to be called a coach when you sort of follow and studied men like him,” Riley said.
Danny Ainge has been an Auerbach protege since being lured away from the Toronto Blue Jays to play for the Celtics. Now Boston’s basketball boss, Ainge compared Auerbach to a grandfather who joked with him, nurtured him and challenged him to become a better player.
“Red is part of all of us, and I think that that will live on,” Ainge said. “I think that I will never forget what Red has done for me and the opportunities that opened the doors for me through Red. And I think that Red lives on in each of us that he’s had an influence on.”
Auerbach joined the Celtics in 1950, when the soon-to-be mighty franchise was struggling for fans. He took the team to the outer reaches of the region for exhibitions; previous coaches advised him to make it a close game to keep things exciting.
“Well,” Rivers recalled, “Red said he was having none of that: ‘We're going to demolish them. We're going to beat them by 50 if we can, to show them that this is the Celtics, and that we are different.’ So they did that.
“But then, after the game, they signed autographs for two hours.”
The team has dedicated the season to his memory; plans for a more immediate tribute are still being formulated, Ainge said.
There’s no doubt what Auerbach would want. He made clear at the last opener when he was asked what he thinks about at the start of a new year.
“What goes through your mind is, ‘When the hell are we going to win another one?”’ he said. “I mean, it’s as simple as that.”
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