Red Auerbach Brought Out the Best

With center Bill Russell, Auerbach won eight straight NBA titles.
With center Bill Russell, Auerbach won eight straight NBA titles. (Associated Press)

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Friday, November 3, 2006

Red Auerbach, the greatest coach in the history of the National Basketball Association, died last week. Auerbach led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA championships, including an amazing eight straight, in the 1950s and '60s.

I know some kids get impatient when adults say how great some old-time player or coach was. After all, Auerbach stopped coaching nearly 40 years ago. Basketball was different back then. If you have seen any games from the 1950s and '60s on ESPN Classic, it's like some weird game from another planet. Everything is in black and white. The players are running around in short shorts. The games have little of the high-flying, slam-dunking action of today's NBA.

Still, Auerbach was a great coach. He coached 11 Hall of Fame players, including Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and Sam Jones. After coaching, Auerbach helped the Celtics win seven more NBA titles as the team's general manager and president. And he lived in Washington, where he got his start as a college player and professional coach.

He was a very smart guy who thought a lot about basketball, people and how teams could become better. In 1952, years before he won his first NBA title, Auerbach wrote a book titled "Basketball for the Player, the Fan and the Coach." Here's what he wrote in a section called "Attitude of Player to His Teammates" (I have added a few words in brackets so it's easier to understand):

1. You must think of getting along with your teammates, because if you are not well-liked, it is easy for them to "freeze you out" [not give you the ball].

2. Show a desire to block or screen for your teammates so that they will do the same for you.

3. Show your teammates that you will take the good shots. Don't appear too "hungry" [by taking bad shots].

4. Don't hold the ball. Look for [teammates] cutting.

5. Dribble with a purpose. Don't just stand there hugging the ball or dribbling aimlessly while your teammates continually cut.

6. Help your teammates on defense. Switch whenever necessary.

7. Don't chide [criticize] a teammate whose man happens to score. Often, it's the fault of your whole team.

8. Don't be too chummy with one or two players. Avoid obvious cliques.

9. Don't discuss the faults of any teammate with the other members of the team.

10. Don't give the impression that you are always hanging around the coach and discussing your teammates with him, unless, of course, you are the captain and the coach asks your opinion.

11. When scrimmaging, don't loaf or take it easy. This will keep the high respect of your teammates.

Auerbach wrote that more than 50 years ago, and it's still good advice for any kid on a basketball team. You are not a good team player if you are always complaining about your teammates or won't pass them the ball when they have a better shot.

Any player, and any kid, can learn from the great players and coaches -- no matter how long ago they played or coached. With nine NBA championships and more than 60 years in the game, Red Auerbach was the best.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is an author of sports novel for kids.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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