AUERBACH, "RED" (Arnold Jacob ; 1917–2006), U.S. basketball coach and executive, member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Auerbach was born in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. He was a star at Eastern District High School and after graduating from George Washington University in 1941 with a master's degree, he coached high school basketball for three years in the Washington, d.c. area and played a year (1942–43) in the American Basketball League with the Harrisburg Senators. Following a three-year tour of duty in the Navy, Auerbach began his professional coaching career in 1946 with the newly formed Basketball Association of America, later to be renamed the National Basketball Association (nba). Auerbach coached the Washington Capitols to a league-best 49–11 record his first year, but lost in the playoff semifinals to the Chicago Stags. He went to the finals two years later in 1949, where he lost to the Minneapolis Lakers, 4–2. He then left to coach the Tri-Cities Blackhawks for one season, posting the only losing season in his career with a 29–35 record. Auerbach then moved to the Boston Celtics, and history was about to be made. Inheriting a team that had a 22–46 record the previous season, the Celtics then went 39–30 in his first year with the help of rookie guard and future Hall of Famer Bob Cousy.
Five years later, Auerbach made the first of many shrewd trades for which he would become famous, landing Bill Russell with the second pick of the 1956 nba draft. After winning the nba championship in Russell's rookie season, the Celtics lost in the nba finals in 1958 when Russell was injured. Boston won the next eight nba titles, a record streak that remains unmatched in the history of any American professional sport. Auerbach popularized the concept of the role player and the "sixth man," providing his teams with an added boost from the bench with an established player. Auerbach was famous for his habit of lighting up a cigar on the bench when he felt his team was assured of victory.
When Auerbach retired, he was the first coach to exceed 1,000 wins, finishing with a combined baa/nba record of 938–479 in the regular season for a .661 percentage, and 99–69 (.589) in the playoffs for an overall record of 1,037–548. He also coached 11 future Hall of Famers. Auerbach remained Boston's general manager when he retired and named Russell as the team's player-coach, the first African-American head coach in nba history. Auerbach rebuilt the Celtics as general manager as well, winning two titles in the 1960s and 1970s before drafting Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and trading for Robert Parish, which led to three more titles in the 1980s. Auerbach was replaced as president in 1997, but returned as team president in 2001. Overall, he won nine nba titles as a coach and seven more as Boston's gm. He was named nba Coach of the Year in 1965, nba Executive of the Year in 1980, the nba's 25th Anniversary All-Time Team coach, and the greatest coach in nba history by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America (pbwaa) in 1980. The Red Auerbach Trophy is now presented each year to the nba's Coach of the Year. Auerbach is the author of Basketball for the Player, the Fan and the Coach (1953) and, with co-author Paul Sann, Winning the Hard Way (1966).
[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]