Red vs Phil
The Godfather of the Boston Celtics Red Auerbach returned to Boston Wednesday night to watch the Celtics open the season against the Knicks. Prior to the game Red spoke to the media to talk about his health (Red was in the hospital over the summer) and about the 2005-06 Celtics. During the presser Red was asked to compare himself to Lakers head coach Phil Jackson and the new Knicks head coach Larry Brown (below with Red). Red, never one to shy away from a question, called both Jackson and Brown great coaches then added, "Keep in mind Phil has picked his spots, Larry Brown has not picked his spots. Larry Brown is a great coach." Red's comments referring to Phil Jackson landing a dream coaching gig with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in LA for 3 titles, while Brown lead Philadelphia and Detroit to the Finals, and actually left Detroit after winning one in 2003 and returning to the Finals last year.
Red has had an on going rivalry with Jackson ever since Jackson's last few seasons with the Chicago Bulls and his hiring in Los Angeles. The media has constantly compared the two after Phil became the only other coach to win 9 world titles, to which Red has objected saying you can't compare the two.
After reading John Feinstein's book about Red over the summer, UB has to say he's in agreement with Red, you can't compare the two. In Red's day the NBA was brand new, in fact the college game was bigger. Back then Red had to be coach, GM, marketing guru and numerous other jobs all in one. There was no scouting back then, Red just went by the opinions of people he trusted. Red never saw Bill Russell play 1 game before drafting him. Red invented things like the 6th man and basketball clinics to help gain more fans. Red actually went into Russia and China as an ambassador of the game during the off season. He also dabbled in psychological warfare, putting opposing teams in cramped, over heated locker rooms, putting in new nets when a team with a good fast break came to town, and smoking his victory cigars when the game was in hand.
Phil Jackson never had to wear the numerous hats that Red did. This is not Phil's fault, but as Auerbach said, you can't really compare the two. The comparison between the two becomes a bitter when you look at the titles they have won. With the Celtics Red won the 1957 title, lost the 1958 Finals then won 8 in a row from 1959-1966. Players came and went from those Celtics teams but Red always had the best player in the league, Bill Russell. Phil lead the Chicago Bulls to 6 titles in 8 years from 1991-1998 before Jordan retired and the team was broken up. It is highly likely that the Bulls could have won titles in 1994 and 1995 had Jordan not left to play baseball, and Red could have been the man on the bench when the Celtics won titles in 1968 and 1969 if he stuck around instead of making Russell the player-coach. Phil left Chicago and signed on with the Los Angeles Lakers, leading them to 3 titles from 2000-2002 before Shaq left after the 2003 Finals loss to Detroit.
So what does all of that info say? That both men were great coach's...Does Red have a point that Phil latched on to a great situation in LA after his run in Chicago? Sure. But they still had to win the games, and dealing with the egos he has had to deal with should count for something. In the end though Red is right as usual, you can't compare the two, the league is too different, the way the game is played is to different. In UB's opinion you gotta take Red over Phil as the better coach, since Red was the one who took the clay that was the NBA in the 1950s and built the C's into the model franchise. Light another one up Red...