A very short post today, but one very much worth the effort.
NBA pioneer, coach, and administrator of the Boston Celtics, the mighty and powerful Red Auerbach, died at the age of 89 this past Saturday (October 28). It's a sad time for those like myself who adored the Celtics (especially the 1980's powerhouse teams that featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, and Danny Ainge), a sad time for the NBA and basketball fans everywhere, and, perhaps most poignantly, a sad time for professional sports as we know it now. With Coach Auerbach's passing essentially goes the 'team-first' concept that drove the Celtics (and their many competitors) to a higher degree of play and sportsmanship...a concept that made players search for something higher than just a massive payday or endorsement contracts. Love them or hate them, the Celtics and Auerbach in his many professional titles with their organization made professional basketball not only a national pasttime, but also a national obsession. I will quite openly admit I was more than addicted...even making and wearing my own homemade Kevin McHale jersey/t-shirt the entire season at night time during my senior year of high school.
Red's many values of what the game should be, though, I fear have also passed with him. While I loved watching the game up until Legend Larry Bird and Courageous Kevin McHale retired (in 1992 and 1993, respectively), I have not been able to stomach what it's become for so many years now with the bloated salaries, off-court dramatics, and excessive showboating. The game that the dear Coach taught me to love, scream myself silly for, lose sleep over even...I simply don't recognize anymore. Like the glorious Celtic matchups of years gone by, I wonder if I'll ever come back to the game with even a small iota of the same passion. Instead, like the fading embers of Red's famous 'winning cigars', my enthusiasm and love have trailed off into a thing of memory.
NPR has compiled a lovely snapshot of Auerbach's legacy and contributions, but also a brief glimpse into what made him such a lively character, such a revered personality by fans of all ages, from all walks of life. Those unfamiliar with The Coach should start first at the link above with yesterday's interview with former Celtic great Tommy Heinsohn, the one entitled "The Coach That Made the Celtics Unstoppable". Those of you, who like me, loved watching Red light up his signature cigar and always dreamed of meeting him someday to say 'thanks', should most certainly check out the interview and excerpt from NPR anchor Steve Inskeep reprinted at the bottom of the link above: it's titled "Red Auerbach: True Stories and NBA Legends". The Inskeep piece is really insightful to all the die-hards like me, a friendly exposure to the man always known about privately, but rarely ever really revealed. When I read things like this and listen to the memorials being done on ESPN® and elsewhere, all I can do is smile. Red had a great, full life...and impacted many people for the better throughout all of his years.
Rest in peace, Coach. You were, and always will be, "The True Boston Celtic" in my eyes.