Red Auerbach is known as one of the greatest basketball minds ever. He showed that as both head coach and general manager of the Boston Celtics, one of the most storied franchises in the NBA.
Auerbach coached 16 seasons with the Celtics, winning nine championships. He closed his career with an unprecedented run, claiming titles in his final eight seasons. Auerbach finished his coaching career with a 938-479 record with three different teams.
He’s widely regarded as one of the best ever. After his career ended, Auerbach explained the key to his coaching success.
Red Auerbach won eight straight championships with the Boston Celtics
Auerbach earned 795 of his victories with the Celtics. For three years, he coached the Washington Capitols of the Basketball Association of America, which preceded the NBA. After one season with the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, Auerbach resigned and eventually hooked on with the Celtics, a struggling team that finished with 22 wins the previous year and had never won more than 25 games in its four years of existence.
In his first year with the Celtics, Auerbach guided the team to a 39-30 record and a playoff berth. In his 16 years as the Celtics coach, he never had a losing season.
Auerbach won his first NBA title as a coach in the 1956-57 season, with Tom Heinsohn and Bob Cousy leading the way. Heinsohn was named Rookie of the Year, while Cousy was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. The following season, Boston returned to the NBA Finals, falling to the St. Louis Hawks in six games.
Auerbach and the Celtics captured championships for the next eight seasons, with five-time MVP Bill Russell leading the way on the court. Prior to the 1965-66 season, Auerbach announced that season would be his last as coach. He went out with his eighth straight title and ninth overall.
He went on to serve as president and GM of the team until his death in 2006. While working as a front-office executive, Auerbach racked up seven more championships.
Auerbach revealed the secret to his coaching success
Yes, Auerbach had the talent on the court in Russell, Cousy, Heinsohn, and more, but he turned the struggling franchise around before those guys got there. He helped put basketball on the map in Boston, which had been a hockey town.
During an undated interview posted by NBC Sports Boston, Auerbach was asked how hard it was to generate interest in basketball in Boston at that time.
“You could write 10 books on that,” Auerbach said. “You never saw a box score in the paper. The guys who were covering didn’t know what it was all about.”
Although Auerbach was feisty and got into it with referees and opposing players occasionally, he was simple. He said not overthinking the game was the secret to his success.
“I didn’t overcoach,” he said. “Coaches today, they’ve got TVs, they’ve got lectures, and they’ve got meetings. What’s it all for? To take a ball and stick it in a hole? You don’t need all that.”
Cousy had a different theory on why the Celtics were so successful under Auerbach.
“Most of us came out of the same ghettos that (Auerbach) came out of in Brooklyn,” Cousy said in the video. “We all had that same hunger. The combination with being hungry and being endowed with all these God-given skills and having (Auerbach) beating on us, produced 11 championships in 13 years.”