Arnold "Red" Auerbach, the greatest basketball coach of the NBA and one of the most gifted generals in the history of all professional sports, died on Saturday. He was 89.
As the coach of the Boston Celtics, Auerbach piloted the team to eight straight NBA championships and won nine overall, all the while puffing on his ever-present cigar.
Few men in history are as linked to cigars as Auerbach. His Celtics were a dominant force, and Auerbach developed a ritual where he would light a victory cigar to celebrate a win -- while the game was still being played. "It all boils down to this," Auerbach told Cigar Aficionado in 1994. "I used to hate these college coaches or any coach that was 25 points ahead with three minutes left to go, and they're up there yellin' and coachin because they're on TV, and they want their picture on, and they get recognition. To me the game was over. The day's work is done. Worry about the next game. This game is over. So I would light a cigar and sit on the bench and just watch it. The game was over, for all intents and purposes. I didn't want to rub anything in or show anybody what a great coach I was when I was 25 points ahead. Why? I gotta win by 30? What the hell difference does it make?"
Back in the days when cigarette smoking was allowed in many restaurants that refused cigar and pipe smokers, the Boston restaurant Legal Seafood had this amazing notice printed on its menu: "No cigar or pipe smoking, except for Red Auerbach."
Auerbach was president of his beloved Celtics when he died, and it was his 56th season with the team. "The Boston Celtics are not a basketball team, they are a way of life," he once said. Auerbach coached 11 Hall of famers, including Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and Larry Bird. "I would play with a broken arm for Red," Bird said in Cigar Aficionado 12 years ago.
Click here to read the 1994 Cigar Aficionado profile on Auerbach.