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Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend Hardcover – May 5, 2009
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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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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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.
Throughout the book Russell describes the deepening relationships with examples of their unique friendship which in many cases are quite minor and not worthy of a book. BUT, at the end of the book Russell eloquently ties this altogether as he talks of his friends death, their intertwined family, and why the most private man I know would take the time to write a book of arguably the second most important relationship of his life, with his coach and friend, Red Auerbach. This book will appeal to Boston fans, sports fans in general and people interested in interpersonal relationships with only a passing interest in sports.
NOTE: While I mentioned racism more than once as it affects the back story of this book, it is not a focus of this book whatsoever other than some early stories in the 50s describing how it impacted parts of their relationship. Please do not let this turn you off this book.
And his post playing career has been noteworthy as well. The man has written some excellent books ("Second Wind", this one) and lived a life seemingly filled with dignity and self respect.
"Red and Me" is Russell's love letter to his friend and former manager with the Boston Celtics, and should not be missed by both fans of the Celtics or NBA or by those interested in living a quiet, dignified life, as Russell has apparently done.
Well worth reading. Recommended.
Well, lots is different. Yes it is about relationship and just a little about basketball. But what it is really about is friendship, a unique friendship. Russell starts by doing an excellent job of taking you inside the upbringing of a young black kid in the rural south. Raised by a family and an extended family that cared and taught him valuable lessons that he was able to take with him.
What he does best is tells us this story without bitching. It is almost like he is detatched. The message comes acrossed powerfully without him having to tell you. It was a tough life. His Mother, who he adored, died when he was 12. His father left the family, with the support of his Mother, to work in Detroit and support the family back in Louisiana.
Its quite a journey for an untrusting soul at the time like Russell to end up in Boston befriended mutually with a Jew in Red. Loved the book and the powerful message of where he came from and where he journeyed to and the struggles in between. Well worth reading for the learnings you can glean from this unique friendship.