12/01/05 - red auerbach

In today's excerpt - Bill Russell regarding his relationship with his coach Red Auerbach. Russell won eleven NBA championships as a Boston Celtic, still an all-time record along, with two NCAA championships as a USF Don, and was a very tempermental, driven and competitive player - not one necessarily given to listening to anyone, much less a coach. Auerbach won nine NBA titles as a coach, also a record, and won all of those with Russell. Here, years after the fact, Russell reflects:

"When I think of Red Auerbach and the leadership he provided, I think of someone who not only had a supreme basketball mind but a great set of ears. Red's greatest talent was that he was a listener who translated what he heard into effective action. How did he do it?

"Red was the first coach who coached me personally. No matter how good you are you need someone to bounce ideas off of and push back some new thoughts. Because if you don't, that groove can very quickly become a rut. Every now and then Red would call me to come to a game or practice early and we'd just talk. He might say, you're getting a little off track. And the conversations were always useful because he used a language that I could hear.

"He spoke to each of us differently. This was never an affectation. He had an uncanny ability to pick up intonations, inflections, and body language in every one of his players. When he listened, he had what I like to think of as a built-in, shock-proof lie detector. We used to have a saying on the Celtics, 'Don't lie to me boy!' That came from Red. He insisted that players tell him exactly what was on their mind. That meant spelling out in the clearest possible basketball terms what they could and couldn't do on the court. He wanted straight answers so he could make good decisions. And he knew how to solicit those answers, and he had the wiliest instinct for eliminating the difficult space between someone's words and their intentions."


Bill Russell with David Falkner


Russell Rules: 11 Lessons on Leadership From the Twentieth Century's Greatest Winner


New American Library


Copyright 2001 by William F. Russell


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