Red Auerbach: What Happened to the Former Boston Celtics Coach?

Image Credit: NBA/YouTube

Red Auerbach is a name synonymous with the success of the Boston Celtics basketball team in the NBA. The former Celtics head coach brought an unprecedented swagger and a winning habit to the Celtics that has been hard to replicate for their competitors, including rivals Los Angeles Lakers. Auerbach’s contributions are also mentioned in the HBO sports drama series ‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,’ where he is a constant obstacle in the Lakers’ path to glory. As a result, viewers must be curious to learn what happened to Red Auerbach after his time with the Celtics.

Red Auerbach Has Passed Away

Arnold Jacob “Red” Auerbach was born on September 20, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York, to parents Marie and Hyman Auerbach. Growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he developed an affinity for basketball at a young age. Auerbach played basketball at the college level before venturing into coaching in 1940, a year before completing his MA from George Washington University. He coached at the St. Albans School and Roosevelt High School in Washington, DC, before joining the US Navy for three years, where he also coached basketball. After making a name for himself during three seasons with the Washington Capitols in the BBA, Auerbach worked as an assistant coach for the Duke Blue Devils. He spent a season with the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now known as Atlanta Hawks) before joining the Boston Celtics in the NBA.

Image Credit: Charlie Rose/PBS

Auerbach took the head coach role at Celtics at the start of the 1950–51 NBA season. Over the next six seasons, the Celtics consistently qualified for the playoffs but never made it to the finals. During the 1956–57 season, Auerbach guided the Celtics to the NBA Championship, his first title win as a head coach. The Celtics lost in the finals the following season before winning a record six consecutive NBA Championships under Auerbach from 1959 to 1966. Auerbach also broke several stereotypes during this time, especially by drafting African-American players.

At the end of the 1965-66 season, Auerbach stepped down as the head coach but continued working with the Celtics in several executive roles for the next several decades. He won a further seven NBA Championships as an executive, making him the most successful individual in the NBA and cementing his status as a legend in basketball. However, on October 28, 2006, Auerbach passed away from a heart attack. He married Dorothy Lewis Auerbach in 1941, and the couple remained together until Dorothy died in 2000. They have two daughters together. At the time of his passing, Auerbach was still serving as the President of the Boston Celtics. The NBA Coach of the Year Award trophy is named after Auerbach, highlighting his contributions to basketball.

Celtics’ Journey Post-Red Auerbach Era

Red Auerbach is arguably one of the pillars of the Boston Celtics’ unprecedented success in the NBA, especially during the 1960s. He won 938 NBA games during his career as a coach, earning him the third spot in the NBA’s list of coaches with the most wins. Auerbach’s reputation improved with time as the Celtics continued winning well into the 80s when he took on executive roles with the team. He is also known for helping the careers of NBA stars such as Bill Russell and Larry Bird. The Celtics’ rivalry with the LA Lakers only intensified in the 80s, and Auerbach’s involvement in it is highlighted through the HBO sports drama series ‘Winning Time,’ where actor Michael Chiklis plays a fictionalized version of the former Celtics head coach.

Image Credit: NBA/Boston Celtics

In the show’s season 2 finale, Auerbach tells Jerry Buss that creating a system greater than any individual will ensure his franchise keeps winning after he is long gone. In his later years, Auerbach’s heart problems affected his tenure as the President of the Boston Celtics, but he continued being involved with the team’s activities. After Auerbach’s passing in 2006, the Celtics made it to the NBA Finals in 2008 and won their first NBA Championship since 1986. In the years since, the Boston Celtics have only qualified for the NBA Finals twice, most recently in 2022. However, they have yet to win another NBA Championship after 2008. Nonetheless, the Celtics hold the joint record for most NBA titles won by a team, along with bitter rivals LA Lakers with 17 wins. Sixteen of these come under Auerbach and are a testament to his overall brilliance, hard work, and dedication to turning the Celtics’ potential into long-term success.

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