Sunday, October 29, 2006

Red Auerbach 1917-2006

"Red Auerbach was one of the most influential people in my life. Not only was he an inspiration to me throughout my career, he became a close friend as well. There could only be one Red Auerbach and I'll always be grateful for having the opportunity to experience his genius and his dedication to winning through teamwork."
-Larry Bird’s statements regarding Red Auerbach after learning of his death

Red was one of my favorite figures in sports. There was something about the way he handled himself that seemed to ooze confidence. While almost all sports figures have their fare share of confidence Red was one of the few who had accomplished enough to unquestionably justify his self assured disposition. He created the very definition of a basketball dynasty. He also did more than anyone else to break the color barrier in basketball by signing and playing the first black player, Chuck Cooper, in NBA history, being the first coach to have an all black starting 5, and signed Bill Russell to be the NBA’s first black coach when he retired from the Celtics bench.

I’ve often referred to the swagger that I like to see in the UM football team. Of non-Cane sports figures I’ve only seen this swagger in 2 people, one is Joey Porter and the other was Red. One of the best examples of this is how he responded to Chris Wallace asking him “in today’s politically correct climate, with no smoking allowed in the NBA arenas, would you still be able to light up your famous victory cigar at the end of a victory?” Red’s response “of course, who’s going to stop me?”

I’ve always felt it important to try and study successful figures of the past in an effort to understand what they did to achieve this success. This is in large part why, even though I wasn’t even close to being born when he built most of his legacy, Red’s autobiographies are still some of my favorite books. On top of all his accomplishments he came off as a decent person to me in my only interaction with him, he actually took the time to reply to a letter I sent to him when I was 12 years old.

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