“Red’s theory was 10 players, two baskets, 13,000 people, one basketball–and we will decide what is done with that one basketball.” -Bill Russell on Red Auerbach
In professional sports, there really are the Celtics and everybody else. After winning eight straight NBA championships and 11 titles during Bill Russell‘s 13 seasons, the bar was set. No matter how you look at it, it’s truly amazing. Yesterday I was privileged enough to meet the five-time MVP, and talk with him for a couple minutes about his new book, “Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend.” As the two driving forces of the Celtics dynasty, Russell spoke on the dynamics of the player-coach relationship with the late, great Red Auerbach.
Dime: When was the first time you met Red?
Bill Russell: I was on the Olympic team and he had a reception at his house for the Olympic team in DC. We played an exhibition game at University of Maryland Cole Field House. So we went over to the reception and he and Walter Brown were there. And I told them that I had a lousy game. I probably made them nervous – thought I played like that all the time. And Red had told me that that was the first time he ever heard a player say it wasn’t somebody else’s fault, or they didn’t give me the ball. I just said I played lousy but I don’t play like that.
Dime: Of all the advice that Red gave you through the years, what is the one piece that resonates with you most today?
Russell: Don’t fall. The last time I saw him, I was at his house in DC. As I was leaving he said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute.” And he came over to the door and he said, “Listen. When you get old, don’t fall.” He said, “Because when you get up there, if you fall, you never fully recover from it.”
Dime: When did you first think about putting something like this together?
Russell: At his funeral. I wanted to wait the appropriate time between then and now. Because I wanted the folks to know that while everybody says Red’s a legendary coach, I just wanted to give some insight to why he’s so successful.
Dime: Looking at the NBA today, who are you favorite young centers in the League?
Russell: Of course Howard’s having the best year, but Yao Ming is an old friend and I don’t know if you’d call him young or old or not. I didn’t get a chance to see Bynum play enough to tell. So you’re talking about the young guys, I’ll just have to wait and see.