WASHINGTON - Red Auerbach was buried in a simple graveside ceremony Tuesday, with Hall of Famers Bill Russell and John Thompson and commissioner David Stern among those paying last respects.
About 150 family, friends and special guests attended the private burial for the NBA great at the King David Memorial Gardens in suburban Washington.
Mourners chanted Psalm 23 and stood in silence as Auerbach’s casket was lowered, then chanted the Mourner’s Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. Stern was among those who took part in the tradition of shoveling dirt onto the grave.
Stern said the service was appropriate for a man who was direct and often blunt, without much regard for fluff or ceremony.
“The utter simplicity was fitting for Red,” Stern said. “Even the simplicity was more than what he would have wanted.”
Auerbach, who won nine NBA titles with the Celtics as a coach and seven more as a general manager, died after a heart attack near his Washington home Saturday at age 89.
“He had a great run,” Stern said. “He fooled us into thinking it would never end.”
At the family’s request, the ceremony was brief, lasting less than 10 minutes. Stern and Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin walked arm-in-arm as the mourners followed the casket from the hearse to the graveside.
Former Boston Celtics stars Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge also attended, along with several representatives from George Washington University, where Auerbach graduated in 1940.
George Washington is planning a tribute to Auerbach at its men’s exhibition basketball game Wednesday night. Auerbach remained a GW season-ticket holder until his death, and a banner hangs in his honor at the Smith Center.
A public ceremony also was scheduled in Boston on Wednesday to honor Auerbach. The noon event at City Hall Plaza was to be led by Celtics officials, Mayor Thomas Menino, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. Edward Kennedy, and attended by former Celtics players including Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, JoJo White and Robert Parish.
The Celtics, whose home opener is Wednesday night against New Orleans, are dedicating this season to his memory, and players will wear a patch with his name on their jerseys.
Some who could not attend the funeral, including former Celtics star Larry Bird and the entire Georgetown men’s basketball team, paid tribute to Auerbach during a visit Monday night at a Washington funeral home.
“The world thought he was tough and mean and gruff and all that — and underneath he was really a pussycat, if you knew him well,” Bob Cousy, a Hall of Fame guard who played for Auerbach, said at the visitation. “He’d be mad at me if he knew I said that.”
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From the basketball stars to the championship trophies, see highlights from the life of the legendary Celtics coach.
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