Happy 100th birthday, Red Auerbach

The Boston Celtics are not a basketball team, they're a way of life.

The patriarch. The godfather. Ole Red. Whatever you want to call him, Red Auerbach was much more than just the Head Coach, General Manager, and Team President of the Boston Celtics, he was -- in essence -- the Boston Celtics themselves. His spirit, ingenuity, and passion for the game and the city of Boston embodies and personifies everything it means to be a Celtic.

So, on this day, what would've been his centennial birthday, we pay homage to the cigar-smoking man responsible for a lot of the confetti that's rained upon the great city of Boston.

Arnold "Red" Auerbach was a visionary, a pioneer. Amongst many of his innovations, Red was the founding father of the "fast break." He also emphasized defense-into-offense, teaching the defensively-dominant Bill Russell -- Mr. 11-Rings himself -- not to swat the ball into the crowd when blocking a shot, but rather to tap the ball and then gain control to start the fast break. That's called transition offense. Yeah, Red invented that. The sixth-man? Take a wild guess who the architect behind that was.
Be an instigator, not a retaliator.

Red was a mastermind and genius manipulator.

The team dynamic was always at the top of Red's list. Talent was necessary, sure, but team chemistry was above all else. After reading the following quote from Red, it appears that Danny Ainge has taken a page right out of his book.
I've turned down a lot of trades where I might have gotten a better player, but I wasn't totally sure of the chemistry of that new player coming in. Even though he might possess golden ability, his personality and the way he gets along with his teammates might be things you just don't want to cope with.

Because of Red, the Boston Celtics won eight straight titles from 1959-66.

Because of Red, the Celtics acquired Bill Russell, who won 11 rings in 13 years.

Because of Red, the Celtics drafted a certain French Lick phenom by the name of Larry Bird. You might've heard of him.

Because of Red, the Coach of the Year (COY) award is called "The Red Auerbach Trophy."

It's no wonder why. When you see his accomplishments during his twenty-year tenure as Head Coach of the green-and-white (back when the games were in black-and-white), it's easy to see why the COY hardware is named after him.

  • 11 Eastern Division titles (nine straight from 1957-65) 
  • 11 NBA Finals appearances (ten straight from 1957-66)
  • 9 NBA Championships  
Only Phil Jackson has won more rings (11) as a coach. The two actually shared what I call a "funny feud" over the years, highlighted by something I heard years back. I'm not quite sure who said it, but the individual claimed Red said, in regards to Phil Jackson having more rings: "I created my teams, he inherited his." Again, not sure if that was the quote verbatim, but I sure as hell hope it is.

After all, smack talk was a forte of Red's. Sometimes he talked a lot without uttering a word. Instead, he'd pull out a Hoya de Monterey cigar from his suit jacket and spark a match, lighting and puffing on a victory cigar -- while sitting on the bench or in the stands -- often when the game wasn't even close to over. To Red, it was over. His lighting of the cigar was the equivalent of renowned play-by-play man Chick Hearn's putting of games "in the refrigerator." When you saw the smoke, the game was over. 

Red talked a lot, but he also led plenty. Not only did he lead the C's to the Promised Land nine times, he even proved to be a hell of a mentor to his former players who took the coaching reins. Including his immediate successor, Bill Russell, who won two titles as coach. Tom Heinsohn also won a couple rings as C's leader, as did K.C. Jones. Don Nelson, while never winning a title as coach, does have three COY awards, and was named as one of the Top 10 Coaches in NBA History, along with Red. Larry Bird also won Coach of the Year honors in his first year in 1997.

Auerbach even mentored Bill Sharman, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to their first title in 1972 (you're welcome, LA), although I don't count that one for obvious reasons. 

The proof is in the performance -- Red Auerbach is the most successful team official in NBA history. 

Because of Red, the Boston Celtics are the Boston Celtics. 

As such, the #2 is retired for Red. But for all he's done, he'll always be #1 to Celtics faithful. 

Follow Edward Babaian on Twitter: @bojixbabaian