Celtics great Red Auerbach dies at 89

Oct. 28, 2006 at 11:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Red Auerbach, who as a coach, general manager and president, led the Boston Celtics to unparalleled heights in the NBA, has died at 89.

Auerbach died Saturday in the Washington area, the Celtics announced.

Auerbach coached the Celtics to nine NBA championships, and the team won seven more titles under his direction after he moved into the front office. His nine championships as a coach -- eight of them running consecutively from 1959-66 -- are a record for a coach in a major U.S. sport, tied by Phil Jackson, who won six with the Chicago Bulls and three with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Auerbach was widely known for his signature gesture -- lighting a victory cigar on the bench when he was confident that the Celtics had a victory in hand.

He finished his coaching career in 1966 with 938 victories and 479 defeats, and turned the job over Celtics star Bill Russell -- making Russell the first black head coach in a major American professional sports league. Auerbach broke the color line in the NBA in 1950 by selecting Chuck Cooper of Duquesne University as the first black player taken in the league's annual draft.

Auerbach was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968.

Arnold Jacob Auerbach was born Sept. 20, 1917, in Brooklyn, the son of a Russian immigrant who ran a dry-cleaning business, the New York Times reported.

He played basketball for George Washington University and coached the Washington Capitols in the Basketball Association of America, the forerunner of the NBA, before taking over the Celtics in 1950.

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