Later that evening we walked to Faneuil Hall. We stayed at the Hilton right in the financial district, so we were in walking distance of quite a bit. So we headed out to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, which was also the site of our first date. We relived the evening, visiting the same shops and walking the same streets, remembering the awkward conversation and reflecting on how just two years later we’re there married with the first baby on the way.
Here’s a picture of someone that I will miss that died this past year. My mother put together a list and failed to mention probably the most significant one: Red Auerbach. I was raised a Celtics fan, watching them play regularly with my mother. I had the posters and t-shirts and hats. I bled Celtic Green. And Red Auerbach WAS the Celtics. A couple of summers ago I read the book “Let Me Tell You a Story” that he did with John Feinstein and it was such a pleasure to read.
Red was a different breed. Everything he did he did with fire and intensity, but knew what he was doing every step of the way. He brought the Celtics to where they were the most dominant team in NBA history, winning 9 titles as coach. But even after he stepped down, he was still pulling the strings, directing a team that won 11 titles in 13 years, the definition of a dynasty. When he stepped down, he had himself replaced with Bill Russel, the first African America coach in the NBA, and Russle played center while coaching the team to more titles. How he managed to draft Russle is an amazing story. He had the second pick of the draft and knew that the guy in front of him wanted to draft Russle. So Red convinced the owner not to pick Russle in exchange for Red getting the Ice Capades to go to his arena.
Red was a competitor to his core. He would do anything he could to gain an edge over his competition, even turning off the hot water to the visitor’s locker room. He would heckle refs who he thought were calling a bad game, and talk trash through the media before anyone knew how to. Even when they lost to the Lakers, he always managed to find a way to make a bigger story and win back the attention.
He was a master engineer of basketball talent. He found Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, John Havlicek, Ed Macauley, Sam Jones, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and of course drafting Larry Bird a year earlier than anyone thought to. He knew where to find people and how to get them onto his team. He didn’t just look for talent, but built teams on team basketball, defense, and rebounding. That’s why during their dominant run, no member of the team ranked in the top ten in scoring. They won as a team, with Red at the helm.
But as time went by, Red got older and was not able to be as involved. Then the worst thing happened: Rick Pitino. When he came on, he demanded the role of president, which was Red’s title. In order to appease him, Red gave it up, but you can bet he carried a grudge to the grave. Pitino then swiftly ran the team into the ground, giving up on draft picks after a quarter of a season. (one guy became the point guard on a two-time NBA champion and the other is a top 20 player in the NBA).
In a way, I’m glad that he’s not here to live through more misery. I was thinking the other day that I’m glad the Red Sox are doing well, but there is an empty spot without the Celtics competing. It pained Red to watch the Celtics wallow in the bottom half of the league. And thank goodness he’s not here to see those stupid cheerleaders. The Celtics aren’t the same team they were when Red was in charge, but hopefully they will find someone like him to lead them back to the top, to win one more for Red.
day two of Babymoon in Boston coming soon…