Nobody does it the way Red Auerbach did it. Then or now. All these guys who are taking on the enormous responsibility of coaching and personnel? C'mon. Red did that and more -- and he won nine NBA titles in 10 years while he was doing it.
He did it without a general manager. That was Red. He did it without a vice president for basketball operations or a special assistant to the senior executive vice president. That, too, was Red. He did it without a senior assistant, an up-and-coming assistant, a video coordinator and a slew of scouts. Those were Red's jobs, too.
There were four names on the Celtics' masthead in the 1960s, and Auerbach was on the top as vice president, general manager and head coach. He oversaw everything, from television contracts to marketing (such as it was) and, of course, basketball operations. No one, he says, does all that now. The game has gotten too big, the responsibilities too weighty for a one-man band.
"The guys like M.L. Carr who are doing both jobs aren't really doing both jobs the way I did them back then," Auerbach said. "They don't do what a general manager does. They do coaching and personnel. That's all. What they are, in essence, is masters of their own destinies. They feel it's a lot easier that way, and I can see that point. But you don't have as much time for the personnel work because you've got to be on the phone a lot. Those are the disadvantages. You've got to see other teams play."
Back in Auerbach's time, the only way to see other players was to go out and watch them. There were days when Red would have a practice in the morning and then fly to New York to take in a college doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.
On some occasions, he would make it for the college practices, too, which he liked. And the next day? He'd be back in Boston, conducting a practice. He didn't have a Don Casey or a Dennis Johnson to cover for him.
"I never missed a practice or a game in 20 years," Auerbach said proudly. ''There was no such thing as a day off. It was tough."
Auerbach had no family conflicts. His wife and daughters stayed in Washington during the season. Red lived at the Lenox Hotel. He didn't have to worry about being home in time to see the kids on Halloween or watch his daughter play soccer. That's the way it was.
He'd call up old chums or former players for input when he was considering making a deal or drafting a player. Those were the days when teams sometimes drafted players they had never seen (although Paul Westphal, the Celtics' No. 1 pick in 1974, was also unseen by Auerbach).
Sometimes Auerbach got lucky. In 1957, he got a call from Bones McKinney, one of his former players in Washington and then the head coach at Wake Forest. The message from McKinney was that a skinny kid from North Carolina Central named Sam Jones was worth a pick. Auerbach had McKinney describe Jones and his game, and he liked what he heard. He drafted Jones in the first round.
Six years later, Auerbach was looking for help along the front line. He
went for a 6-foot-8-inch forward from Colorado State named Bill Green. He didn't do his homework, however. Green didn't like to fly. The year before, Auerbach had drafted John Havlicek out of Ohio State.
"I tried to see as many guys as I could, and I'd talk to a lot of people," Auerbach said. "A lot of the guys, like Bill Russell and Havlicek and Tom Heinsohn and Satch Sanders, I saw them play. But I drafted a kid who couldn't fly. That wasn't so smart. But what are you gonna do? Sometimes you'd get it right and sometimes you didn't."
Finally, Auerbach gave up the coaching duties, turning the team over to Russell in 1966. At that time, he was 49 and he had been coaching in the NBA for 20 years. Things had changed. Now there were agents, people Auerbach believed were the lowest form of human existence. There was more television, more marketing, more of everything.
"It wasn't as big as it is today, but for one guy, it was a lot," he said. "And I did all that stuff. That's why I got burned out."
What advice would he offer Carr, who, by virtue of his twin titles, is the most powerful man with the Celtics since, well, Auerbach himself?
"There's no substitute for work," he said. "If you want to do it right, you've got to be available 24 hours. Otherwise, get someone else to handle the personnel."