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Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend Hardcover – May 5, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

First, let’s get the basketball credentials out of the way. Russell was the greatest team basketball player ever; his Boston Celtics won championships in 11 of his 13 years. Arnold Jacob “Red” Auerbach was the Celtics coach for the first 10 years of Russell’s career and later, as the general manager, assembled five more championship teams after Russell retired. Russell retraces the path of their lifelong friendship as it evolved from player-coach to professional equals to good friends. The relationship was always grounded in respect. Auerbach never tried to alter Russell’s then-revolutionary basketball style, nor did he ever interfere with or critique Russell’s involvement in the civil-rights movement. Auerbach’s Jewish heritage exposed him to some of the same prejudices Russell experienced in segregated Boston, though they never compared notes. Auerbach cultivated a public persona associated with words like gruff or curmudgeon that are partially accurate but woefully incomplete. He was extraordinarily intelligent, fearless, and sensitive to what would bring out the best in those around him. Russell understands these characteristics and has produced a moving tribute to his friend and, in a larger sense, to friendship. --Wes Lukowsky

From the Back Cover

When Bill Russell joined the Boston Celtics in 1957 as the nation′s first prominent black basketball star, he was not expecting much from coach Red Auerbach. Despite two national college championships and an Olympic gold medal, Russell′s previous coaches-all whites-had barely spoken to him. Russell′s style was unorthodox, redefining the meaning of defense and offense, and many scouts dismissed him.

Yet Auerbach, the Jewish outsider in Irish Boston, immediately took to Russell, the African American from Louisiana and Oakland, and he was a coach like no other. Auerbach listened to his players, experimented freely, and knit together a team based only on results. Together they made sports history, winning 11 championships in 13 years. Along the way, Auerbach elevated Russell to player-coach, the first African-American coach in league history. Together, they battled prejudice both on and off the court, and created a team chemistry for the ages.

Even this glory is surpassed by another, little known aspect of their relationship: they became lifelong friends. As Russell explains, they were prepared for each other by their fathers, both strong men who loved their sons unconditionally. They both intuitively understood the dynamics of male friendship: there are many things left unsaid, but there is always understanding and respect. Over the many years since Russell retired from the Celtics and moved to the west coast, they saw each other rarely but spoke on the phone regularly. They were always there for each other. As Auerbach fell ill and declined, Russell was there, knowing how to reach out while respecting his former coach′s privacy. When Auerbach passed away in October, 2006, Russell refused to speak publicly about a relationship that was so deeply personal. Here, he offers a tribute greater than any speech.

This is a book not just for sports lovers, not just for fathers and sons, but for male friendships of all shapes and sizes.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061766143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061766145
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By soulonice on May 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I came across this book, while going through a basketball website, and since Bill Russell is regarded as the greatest winner in team sports, and Red Auerbach is considered the greatest coach that's ever lived, I figured there is no better place to learn about them, than from Russell himself.

Russell shares stories of his childhood, and how it helps him in high school, college, and how it sets the foundation for his relationship with Red Auerbach. You could tell they had a sincere bond, and had a unique way of interacting with each other. They both realized what they had with each other, and were able to work toward one common goal: winning. It was one of the more encouraging examples of success, especially with what we see nowadays, with teams and some of the riff-raff that goes on, that has little-or-nothing to do with winning.

It also gives you a glimpse of a side of both of them that people were not accustomed to seeing, at least from what I've seen. We get to see Coach Red as someone who would play practical jokes, and even had some played on him as well. More than anything, Mr. Russell does a great job of exposing the man, and letting the reader know he was fiercely loyal, dedicated to success, and was someone whose mind was working 24/7, and all for the betterment of the team. More than anything else, it's the story of how two men came together, and became very good friends, while forming a bond that could never be compromised and broken.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rick Shaq Goldstein on May 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must state for the record that I am not a Boston Celtic fan... but the fact that I openly admired their "team-first" play... and even though I was saddened for decades as they always beat my Lakers in the finals... as a basketball player myself... I was true to the heart of the sport... when I openly said they were the better team. The Celtics of the late 50's and 60's were *THE-GREATEST-DYNASTY-IN-THE-HISTORY-OF-ALL-PROFESSIONAL-SPORTS!* Winning *EIGHT-STRAIGHT-NBA-CHAMPIONSHIPS*... and winning *ELEVEN-NBA-CHAMPIONSHIPS-IN-THIRTEEN-YEARS*! This is a mark that has never been matched... and with the lunacy of free agency... probably never will. At the core of these storied championships were two men. The architect... a small fiery Jew from Brooklyn... the coach and general manager... Red Auerbach... and the winningest player in professional sports history... and Celtic center... Bill Russell. This is not to say there weren't other great players on these Celtic teams... of course there were. The Hall of Fame's walls are lined with many of their plaques... in addition to numerous other Celtic legends as well. Just to name a few: "Da Cooz"... Heinsohn... the Jones boys... Sharman... Sanders... Havlicek... Howell... Loscutoff... and many others. But the most valuable of all these... was center Bill ("Russ") Russell. Russ's unmatched record as the ultimate winner included back-to-back NCAA Championships with USF and an Olympic Gold Medal in 1956 before joining the Celtics.

Most of these accolades are known by most Celtic fans and also by true sports fans. But what hasn't been known... until this book... because Russ never let anyone into his heart before... to share his intimate feelings... is how deep the reciprocal friendship... and yes the actual love was... between Russ and Red.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on May 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The secret to the unique friendship between Arnold "Red" Auerbach and Bill Russell has to be the mutual respect each had for the other. Red was the first coach Russell ever had who let him be himself. Rather than impose his own will on him Auerbach was smart enough and secure in his own position to allow Russell to "do his thing" on the basketball floor. Auerbach did admit to having two sets of rules, one for Russell and one for the remaining members of the team. Russell, to his credit, didn't take advantage of the situation. Both Auerbach and Russell were upfront with each other in their relationship and each respected and didn't question the others' beliefs in matters not related to basketball. An interesting anecdote is how Russell came to be drafted by the Celtics. Yes, it has been told in other books, but the Celtics had to do some maneuvering to get the chance to draft Bill Russell. I'm sure Russell would have been successful even if he didn't have Arnold "Red" Auerbach for a coach, but fortunately this odd-couple were a perfect match for one another. This book is a quick read, but it does contain lessons that will interest future coaches on any level in addition to anyone who is interested in reading about human relationships.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Spell VINE VOICE on May 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I originally had mixed emotions about this book and would have rated it lower if i had written the review prior to the excellent ending. In summation, this is a very short, fast read where Bill Russell describes his unique relationship and total understanding between two friends who can be so close while communicating so little. But this book needs a better set-up than a book of friendship and Russell supplies that here. He describes his history as a black man and traces his influence to his widowed father who raised him with the ultimate in high standards of integrity. But remember this is also a black player entering sports shortly after Jackie Robinson. Russell had had poor relationships with previous coaches and had been subjected to 1950s racism such as being unable to dine or sleep with the white members of the team in the south. Not mentioned in great detail are the stories of racism when Bill Russell bought a home in Boston and the racism he faced. There is quite a humorous story of trash can noise which police said was racoon caused. Then Russell requested a gun permit. End of noise.

But to complete the back story for this book you must know that in addition to be an exceptional athlete, Russell was an incredibly intelligent and private man who even refused autographs to his teammates for their family. With this background Russell describes how he expected another poor relationship with his coach only to find in Red Auerbach a Jewish man who also had suffered racism and was solely focused on winning and treating his players well. Once he knew what was important to Russell, he treated him as an accomplice, always asking his opinion and never disrespecting him.
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