LET ME TELL YOU A STORY: A LIFETIME IN THE GAME
by Red Auerbach and John Feinstein
Little, Brown 368 pages, $25.95
AT LAST, Celtics fans have something to celebrate. No, not Gary Payton, but rather another revel in past glories, which the Boston faithful seem to enjoy almost as much as a trip to the NBA Finals. Red Auerbach--the coach of the great Celtics teams of the '60s and the G.M. of the club through much of its later success--is as well-known as a raconteur as he is a basketball genius, and he's at his best at lunchtime on Tuesdays, when by tradition he sits down at the China Doll restaurant in Washington, D.C., with a dozen of his good friends. Noted sportswriter John Feinstein went along on a number of those lunches over several years, and this book, the result, is the closest most Celtics fans will ever come to a seat at the table--and it's almost as good.
Many of Red's tales and tirades have a familiar ring, but it's the familiarity of an old friend rather than an old joke. Have you heard about the time Muhammad Ali asked Auerbach to set up a fight with Wilt Chamberlain? Or about the Celtics' visit to Europe, when Red got two Polish coaches to pretend to be secret policemen and arrest Boston forward Tommy Heinsohn?
There are some surprises too. Auerbach, who hired the NBA's first African-American coach, Bill Russell, adamantly insists that University of Kentucky coaching legend Adolph Rupp was not a bigot, as many believe. "Now, cheap," says Auerbach, "that was another story." He has kind words for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. "Nice guys," he says, "both basketball fans." But he has a complaint too: "Boy, that Clinton really liked to talk basketball. I couldn't get a word in edgewise."
Now that is hard to believe. --C.H.