This is how, on Nov. 13, 1978, David W. Cowens became the seventh coach in the 31st year of the Celtics.
"Red called me in to talk about the team with him and John Y.," says Cowens. "I told them exactly what I thought was wrong. What was wrong with our practices, our discipline, certain players, how we played certain teams, things that Satch ought to do and ought not to do. They didn't tell me he'd been fired."
"From the way you talk," Brown mused, "maybe you want to be the coach."
"Well, hell. Why would I want to coach?" said Cowens half to himself. Auerbach insists that Brown's line was pure throwaway, but as soon as it had been uttered, Cowens pounced on it.
"David's eyes lit up," said Brown later. "I could see he loved the idea."
"I noticed it too," said Auerbach. "His eyes were like pinwheels."
Cowens said to Auerbach, "When I came in here, you didn't intend to ask me to coach, did you?"
Auerbach nearly choked on his cigar. "No," he said. By this time Cowens had been told that Sanders was gone. He said he needed time to think the offer over and bolted from the office.
"I had never for a minute thought of Cowens as a coach," Auerbach said later. "He was the last guy. I always thought when his playing days were over he'd get in his truck and go cut down Christmas trees. But then I started thinking about his personality. He doesn't like losing one bit more than I do."
Some other positive thoughts came to Auerbach's mind. Cowens had run a successful basketball camp for seven years. Last April he married Debbie Cmaylo, a strong, intelligent woman with a master's degree in child psychology. He had given up his apartment above a Wellesley toy store and was now living in a conventional house in Needham. His discussion of the team had showed intelligence and concern.