Arnold “Red” Auerbach: 1917 – 2006


I’ll have more to say about Red later, but I want to begin to honor his memory right now…

Red Auerbach epitomized a quality that Jews recognize but never talk about “Yiddishe Kop”. I can’t find a good online definition but it means literally “Jewish Head” or “Jewish Brain”. This refers to a certain kind of imaginative and creative thinking which exists outside of the box. With Auerbach’s litany of deals, he came to embody this quality: picking Jo Jo White when others avoided it because of a military commitment, drafting Larry Bird when he was still a junior in college, finagling to get both Parish and McHale in the same front court. It was one of these deals that also lead to one of the saddest moments in Celtics history. He dealt Gerald Henderson in exchange for a draft pick. That draft pick became Len Bias. If Bias had lived, Auerbach would have guaranteed the team’s future. Alas the fates were cruel to both Bias and Auerbach — Bias o.d.’d on Cocaine — and the Celtics have never been the same since.    

 By the same token, Auerbach was a true racial innovator. For all you people who maintain that Boston is a racist sports town, I remind you that Auerbach made Bill Russell the first African American coach in NBA history. Russell was the coach in Boston when other teams, such as The New York Knicks, had white coaches.




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