by Larry H. Russell
October 22nd, 2012
This October marks the six-year anniversary of the passing of Arnold “Red” Auerbach.
Known as The Patriarch, Auerbach was, well, just that – the patriarch of sixteen World Championship basketball teams in Boston.
Most importantly, Auerbach defined the Celtics culture. His spirit became the embodiment of ‘Celtics Pride.’
Anyone who has any semblance or grasp of the history of professional basketball knows how important Red Auerbach was not just to the Celtics, but also to the game.
His legacy still carries on today. Because of Red, the Celtics will always carry a mantra of unity, unselfishness, and playing for the guy next to them.
Because of Red, the fire in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry will always stay ablaze.
Because of Red, the Celtics organization will always feel that there is a standard that they must live up to.
Red Auerbach truly bled Celtics green.
And it should not be hard to believe that that carried on to the rest of his family.
Randy Auerbach is the daughter of Red Auerbach. She is an active member of the Celtics family, keeping touch with many of their past and current members. Most importantly, she is a huge Celtics fan.
A diehard Celtics fan.
Living in LA.
Recently, this writer had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Auerbach. And this writer took it upon himself to share the conversation.
Larry H. Russell: What’s it like following the Celtics out in LA?
Randy Auerbach: Not easy. It’s Lakerland. I get hate mail, stickers on my car. I grew up in DC. Even though they didn’t like the Celtics there, it was more favorable. In LA, not easy.
L: So do most of the people know that you are Red Auerbach’s daughter?
R: Enough people know.
L: How’s the media out there? How do they treat the Celtics?
R: With disdain.
They treat them with a lot of anger and negativity. They can’t imagine the Celtics could ever be champions; that the Celtics would ever have an established legacy.
[The LA media] is all about the Lakers. They think the Lakers are the only franchise in the league, and they can’t imagine that the Celtics are right there with them.
L: We used to hear that your dad loved beating the Knicks more than any other team. But he clearly got incentive taking down LA (especially watching the 1984 championship presentation.) If Red could beat one team for it all on any given year, who would it have been?
R: It would’ve been the Lakers. It’s clear.
The Lakers are just so arrogant. New York is, but in a different way. My father grew up in Brooklyn, so he knew that world.
But the Lakers, the arrogance. The hoopla, the star power. It’s different. They think they’re the only ones who can win. So there’s a lot of pleasure in beating them.
L: What makes the Celtics as an organization different from the Lakers?
R: It started with Walter Brown. What he laid out. When my father first joined the franchise, Brown was a class act and a gentleman. And that provided the foundation for those who followed.
With Boston, it’s different than the other major cities. You’re in the spotlight in LA, in New York – just by the paparazzi. But when you’re in Boston – you have to earn it. The fans are tough and don’t give it up freely. But once you earn it, you have it for life.
My father knew what all his former players were doing and where they were. And what their kids were doing. He took great pride in that.
The Celtics are a family. I’m not sure the Lakers have that.
And now they are trying to redeem themselves, with Jerry West and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. The way they were treated would have never happened in Boston.
Whenever you go to a game in Boston, there’s always someone there, former Celtics, other NBA players. I remember going to a game and sitting with David Robinson. It’s just such a welcoming organization.
L: While Phil Jackson recently passed Red in most championships won as a coach, there are still many arguments for both sides — Red had a small coaching staff, put together his team, dealt with arguably tougher competition while Phil had to beat more teams, players making a ton of money, etc. What’s your take on this great debate?
R: I am not a Phil Jackson fan per se. However, you cannot dismiss his record.
But the thing is, people look at the bottom line without looking at the history. You need to look at other stuff. My father didn’t have private jets, didn’t have a travel secretary, a million trainers, assistant coaches, limos, etc. It was a very different time, a tougher time.
Number two – Phil went to teams with franchise players whereas my father built those teams.
Not to dismiss his winnings, it is just they are built on a different set of criteria.
I would take my father’s record over his.
People say the game has changed. Yes, the game has changed. You see more dunks and stuff. But remember there was also lot of that same flashy stuff back then. Bob Cousy, Pistol Pete, all those guys were doing a lot of what you see now, back then.
My father always knew the game was changing. But even when he knew it was, he’d always say, “flat court and round ball, fundamentals.” And that’s always the case. Remember that.
L: Let’s move ahead a bit to today. Do you think this group of Celtics ownership and management has done a good job carrying on the legacy of Red? And not just the legacy of winning, but of what he stood for?
R: Not being in Boston on a regular basis, I think it is difficult to say.
But they have been most gracious to my sister and myself. They are doing the best job they can to carry [the legacy] on in times that are very different.
Back then, I think it was much more personal. It was just how the Celtics were.
Now it is a more of a corporation, a business. I think this administration makes their decisions with the best intent.
L: Did your father really approve of the Celtics Dancers like the Celtics brass said?
R: No, he never would have.
The dancers debuted the day after his funeral.
He just felt that it was a recipe for problems. That’s been the case in LA. Let’s just say they had issues.
No one cares about this other stuff – the music, the girls. They are there to watch the game.
L: How about the personnel decisions – Danny Ainge. Did you like the off-season the team had?
R: I have to see. On paper, it looks tit for tat. We can’t be sure.
We have new players, and you never know what a player’s psyche is. I am always optimistic that the players always want to play for Boston.
Ray [Allen] will be commendably missed.
L: Now let’s shift to these Celtics, the players over the last few years. How about the new Celtics? How has this group of Celtics, Garnett, Pierce, Rondo and Doc distinguished themselves amongst the many great teams in Celtics lore?
R: I am a huge fan of Doc Rivers. He’s such a class act. He has a lot of integrity and a lot of heart. He has done a fantastic job.
I feel that in the last few years – [these Celtics] have been fantastic. They have so much heart and soul when they play. I think it’s been great. I love to watch them.
They are very reminiscent of some past teams. They show you don’t need the superstars to be successful. You don’t need the LeBrons and the Kobes. Five solid players can beat one superstar. And that’s what the Celtics have always been about. They’ve been about team. And that’s what [these current Celtics] are like. They have been great. Absolutely great.
L: Who would have been your father’s favorite player on this group of Celtics?
R: Couldn’t say. Wouldn’t say. (Laughs)
He’d love them all for different reasons. Pierce’s heart, Ray Allen’s steadiness. KG’s intensity. Rondo’s court sense. Etc etc. He would’ve loved these guys.
L: In your mind, what would your father’s feelings be on the current version of the NBA?
R: You know, with the history he had, he was also very forward minded. He wasn’t one of those “in my day” guys. He got it. That’s why he retired when he did. He felt as a coach, you can’t be too far removed from your players.
He would’ve loved some of these games. Maybe not some of the nonsense because he did not tolerate fools. But he knew that things changed and you had to change with the times.
I need to emphasize that. I really do. He’d still watch every game. We’d talk on the phone during games, Celtics games, any games. I’d do color commentary with him on the phone for West Coast games before cable made all games accessible. He’d watch college, high school, everything. He loved the game.
L: What about your feelings?
R: Well, I am an avid Laker-hater, but how do you not love Magic Johnson? I don’t like Kobe. He has enormous talent, but I don’t enjoy watching him play. Magic you couldn’t dislike. I loved watching him play. There was just so much joy when he played, so much explosion. When you see that – it doesn’t matter who the player is or whom he is playing for. You rarely see that anymore because people are so worried about the media and cameras. So you don’t get the same joy as watching Magic or other players.
And I am sorry, but I am not a fan of LeBron. Now he’s got one ring, but remember he was not a finisher until this year. He’d lose concentration in the big moments. I am not convinced yet that he’s the best player ever. Would I take him over Russell or Bird or Jordan or Magic? Not even close. He’s still about the cameras, and worried about the media.
L: Randy, how close do you remain to the Celtics family? And is there anyone you still talk to that are members of the family?
R: I speak frequently to Jeff Twiss. He’s a terrific guy and a loyal friend.
During the playoffs, I keep in touch with Doc, even though there are moments when I feel he doesn’t need encouraging words from me. But Red would’ve appreciated everything he’s done, and I try to remind him of that.
I keep in touch with David Stern quite closely. I keep in touch with [Bill] Russell, [Bob] Cousy, Satch [Sanders]. They are family. They really are my family. That’s what the Celtics are about.
L: You’re a fan of the commissioner?
R: A big fan of David’s. He extends an invitation to the All-Star game every year, which I appreciate because it gives me an opportunity to catch up and to participate in the NBA Cares program.
I supported his decision with Chris Paul, who has done a great thing out here with the Clippers. It was controversial and it took a lot of guts, but I believe it was the right decision.
I don’t understand how the Lakers are carrying what they are carrying. I get [the players] for wanting the media and the exposure. That’s why they want to play for New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. They want to go there for that.
L: I should ask you who your favorite Laker is, (laughs.) But seriously, how about the Celts? Did you ever have a favorite Celtic? All-time and today?
R: I would never answer that. (Laughs)
L: Obviously this October means that it has been six years since your father left us. I’m sure there’s so much that comes to your mind when you think of your father, especially around this time. Us Celtics fans, and even basketball fans, just know Red Auerbach the basketball coach. Red Auerbach the general manager. Red Auerbach the President of the Celtics. What do you think of?
R: I miss the person, my dad. I was going to Boston one day, and somebody said to me “Are you going to go see your dad?” And I said, “No I go to Boston to see Red Auerbach. I go to DC to see my dad.” In Boston, he was Red Auerbach, the coach. Back home, he was simply my dad.
But I miss certain movies he would’ve loved, certain political things we would’ve talked about. He was just a great guy, very astute guy. Very, very astute and smart.
My sister and mom shared a sense of humor while my dad and I were often referred to as humorless.
L: Do you have any special stories of Red? As a person and as a Celtic? As Celtics fans, we all know about Landon Turner, what else did he do that we aren’t aware of?
R: There are so many I can’t begin.
I learned many stories I had not heard by reading his book Let Me Tell You a Story.
My dad was great. He’d come out to LA for games, mostly to see me. I remember going to one game with him and we were on the bus back with the team, and he realized that during the game someone had stolen his wallet. He had to laugh. We laughed because it was so typical in LA for someone to get him.
We went to a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills. My dad put in his order, and then the waiter said, “No egg.” And my dad said, “How did you know?” And the waiter said, “I waited on you in Boston 20 years ago.”
L: And lastly, any predictions for the coming NBA season?
R: I hope we can rally and win it. I’d love to see Doc take another ring home. There are a lot of teams I like a lot. I really dislike the one team that shall go unnamed. I can’t help it. It’s such a vitriol reaction for me when they say Lakers. Or when I see purple.
Someone told me a story about Jerry West once, they were handing out NBA shirts, and Jerry West said, “I can’t wear the green one.” I am the same way with purple. It’s not going to happen.
The Lakers. I don’t know if the Lakers have a strong enough coach to deal with that amount of talent and ego. They could implode. People say coaching doesn’t matter when you have all that talent but it does. You need a strong coach.
I happen to like Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. They need to hope Kobe is smart enough to figure out what works for them. For me, I hope he doesn’t.
http://clnsradio.com/2012/10/22/convers ... -auerbach/