On this day in Boston Celtics history, legendary Boston Celtics head coach and manager Arnold Jacob “Red” Auerbach was born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York in 1917. The winningest front office executive in the history of North American professional sports with 16 titles to his name as a coach or general manager, Auerbach was also a socially conscious ally to Black players.
He drafted the first Black player (Chuck Cooper, 1950), fielded the first all-Black starting five (1964) and hired the first Black Head coach (Bill Russell, 1968) in modern North American sports history.
A child of Russian Jewish immigrants, Auerbach was awarded an athletic scholarship to George Washington University. While there, he became a disciple of the fast break while earning an M.A.
AP Photo/J. Walter Green
While at George Washington, he started his coaching career at the St. Albans School and Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C.
The future Celtics giant continued coaching for the Navy when he joined for a three-year tour in 1943.
Afterward, he parlayed his Navy connections into a job coaching the (now defunct) Washington Capitols in the recently-founded Basketball Association of America (BAA), a precursor league of the NBA.
After disagreements with the owner, Auerbach briefly served as an assistant coach at Duke before a short stint as coach of the (then) Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now, Atlanta Hawks). He landed the job with Boston on the recommendation of its players to owner Walter A. Brown.
While it took him a half-decade to mold the team into his vision as he drafted or dealt for Hall of Famers Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman, it paid dividends for the franchise. The first title came the season after drafting Bill Russell, Tommy Heinsohn and KC Jones, in 1957.
Many more followed, and Auerbach transitioned from coach to general manager. Russell replaced him as coach in 1968.
AP Photo/Chris Kasson
Auerbach remained active in Celtics affairs until the turn of the millennium, when he was unceremoniously pushed out by Rick Pitino.
He died of a heart attack in 2006 — rest in peace, Red.
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