Auerbach coached the Celtics to eight titles in 16 seasons
Title Years: 1957, ’59-66
“The Boston Celtics are not a basketball team, they are a way of life.”
Those immortal words of Red Auerbach are still very much a part of the fabric of the Boston Celtics franchise today. And if the Celtics are indeed a way of life, then those who have benefited from it owe a great debt of gratitude to coach Red Auerbach.
Upon coming to Boston at the start of the 1951 season, the Celtics had never finished above .500 and had qualified for the playoffs just once in their brief four-year history. Owner Walter Brown was desperate to make a splash, but Auerbach insisted on doing things his way.
First, Auerbach passed on drafting local hero Bob Cousy in the 1950 draft infuriating the local media and fans alike. Some months later Cousy would sign after failing to reach an agreement with the Tri-Cities Blackhawks.
In the same draft, Auerbach would draft Chuck Cooper, the first African-American ever drafted in professional basketball. Auerbach’s Celtics would also be the first NBA team to start a game with an all-black lineup 14 years after the draft of Cooper.
Red’s shining moment came in 1956 draft when he traded away six-time All-Star Ed MaCauley, to St. Louis for the rights to a center out of the University of San Francisco, Bill Russell. With Red and Russell together the basketball world in Boston would never be the same.
No coach, in any sport, coached as many consecutive title teams as Auerbach and only Phil Jackson has more championships than Red’s nine. His 795 wins with the Celtics is more than 300 ahead of second place on the franchise list. Only Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich have coached one franchise to as many victories as Auerbach did with the Celtics.
He ranks first in games coached, wins, playoff wins and of course championships for the franchise. In fact, Auerbach’s eight championships are as many as every other Celtic coach on this list combined.
Auerbach won 50 or more games in each of his eight final seasons. Perhaps most notably though, in his 16 seasons as coach of the Celtics, Boston never finished below .500 and made the postseason in all of those years.
Even after his retirement in 1966, Auerbach continued to impact the Celtics franchise. Serving as the general manager for the rest of the decade and well into the 1980s, Red’s fingerprints were all over the team’s future success.
From naming Bill Russell as his successor as head coach, drafting Larry Bird in 1978, to trading for Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, Red Auerbach would serve as the orchestrator to eight more championships in Boston.
Auerbach was also the 1965 Coach of the Year, an award that is now named after him.
In 1971 he was named to NBA’s Silver Anniversary Team and in 1997, as part of the “NBA at 50” celebration, Red Auerbach was named one of the Top 10 Coaches in NBA history.