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"I honestly had no idea," says Auerbach. "Where the hell do you get a coach now?" The last three Celtic coaches had all come from the "family," so speculation in the press ran toward John Havlicek, Bob Cousy, Laker GM Bill Sharman, Assistant Coach K. C. Jones or even—was it possible?—the 61-year-old Auerbach himself.
Then on Monday morning, Auerbach brought Cowens into the discussion. "When things on a team are going bad," says Auerbach, "you bring in your key guy. See what he's thinking."
At 6:45 that evening Auerbach called his assistant, Jeff Cohen. "His voice was as excited as I've ever heard it," says Cohen.
"Call the players. Change practice. Call a press conference for tomorrow," said Auerbach breathlessly. "Guess what I've done?"
Cohen's heart skipped several beats. "Red! You're making a comeback!"
"I'll give you a hit in the head. Now guess what I've done?"
Cohen couldn't guess.
"I just made Dave Cowens coach."
"Red used to be known for making the bold move," says Cohen. "Maybe we haven't done that the past couple of years. Maybe we became too much in the other teams' molds. After all, we are the Celtics. We used to have the feeling that we had this leprechaun sitting on the backboard, knocking away the other teams' shots and helping our own. Well, the last couple of years he's been working for the other team. We've got to get him back."
Cowens? A leprechaun? Over the years the man-child has had enough difficulty, it seemed, being responsible for himself. Had Red lost his senses? "With a record like ours you don't go around joking," says Auerbach. "Does anybody think I would joke around with the Celtics?" Not really.