Red Auerbach


NBA Boston Celtic coach Red Auerbach and owner Walter Brown shake hands after drafting the first black player, Chuck Cooper.

Red Auerbach and Brown are responsible for the NFL, MLB, and NHL laging behind in diversity hiring of Black Head Coaches in pro sports.  Going into 2022 NBA Championship finals. There  are  now 15 black head coaches among the 30 franchised teams.  There is only one black owner in the mix (NBA).

Red Auerbach, Walter Brown and abolitionist John Brown had more in common than their skins. These three men stood up for black folks when they could not stand up for themselves.

John Brown for example, is famous for leading a small group on a raid against a federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in an attempt to start an armed slave revolt and destroy the institution of slavery (sounds like Red Auerbach and Walter Brown to me).

As early as 1848 he was formulating a plan to incite an insurrection.  The insurrection failed on Harper’s Ferry in Virginia (now West Virginia) and two of Brown’s sons were killed and he was wounded.

He  was tried for treason and murder, and he was found guilty on November 2, 1859.  The 59-year-old abolitionist went to the gallows on December 2, 1859.  Before his execution, he handed his guard a slip of paper that read, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”  The massacre of school children and terrorist shooting innocent shoppers in our malls and churches make John Brown sound like a prophet.

In 1950 Red and Walter Brown began their crusade for equal and human rights in pro sports mirrored John Brown’s efforts one-hundred years earlier.

Red was the first coach to draft a black player when they join when he chose Chuck Cooper play five black players at the same time. He was first to hire the first black coach, Bill Russell and the first to hire a black General Manager, aka Bill Russell. During the tenure of owner Walter Brown and Red Auerbach the Boston Garden was a “Racial Free Zone.” The stifling racial strife in the city of Boston for the past several decades was not allowed in Boston Garden during Celtic games. When games were played in the garden the Redneck riff-raff had to check their KKK robes and hoods at the gate and replace them with shirt and tie, or blue jeans and tee-shirts. Boston Garden security had orders to show the exit to those who did not comply.


Red and his wife Dotie were frequent guest on my talk show “Inside Sports” and they supported my non-profit organization Kids In Trouble, Inc.

HBell, Red Auerbach and Earl Lloyd celebrate Black History Month

I remember when the black community in the late 70s was accusing the Boston Celtics of being the most racist team in the NBA on sports talk radio in Washington, DC. It was during an interview with Washington Post sports editor George Solomon on my Inside Sports talk show, I suggested that I write a column proving them wrong and I did.

I reminded black folks who didn’t have a clue, in 1950 Chuck Cooper of Duquesne University and a second team All-American was drafted by coach Red Auerbach and owner Walter Brown. Cooper would become the first black player drafted and signed by an NBA team. The NBA is now the most integrated pro sports organization in America. Despite that fact, the plantation mentality still lingers, but the Boston Celtics are no longer the bad guys. The NBA history today is a watered down version of the history that I lived.

When the basketball hall of fame had forgotten the contributions of pioneer Earl Lloyd the first black player to play in an NBA game in 1950, Red, sports columnist Dick Heller and I reminded them. When Earl brought the omission to my attention and ask for my help, I invited Boston Celtic Hall of fame player Sam Jones, CBS/NFL studio host James Brown, WOL Radio One talk show host, Butch McAdams, Andrew Dywer and Christy Winter-Scott of The Round Ball Report to have lunch with me at Union Station to discuss a Game Plan to get him inducted into the hall of fame.

NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd

The timing could not have been better, the NBA All-Star Game was to be played in Washington, DC at the MCI Center in February 2001 and it was just a few months away. I laid out the plan to honor Earl during that weekend. First event would be in his hometown of nearby Alexandria, Virginia with a Earl Lloyd Day. There would be a youth basketball clinic and a tribute in his honor later that evening in Washington, DC at the historical Bohemian Caverns. James Brown had agreed to co-host the tribute with NBA/Playground Basketball legend Sonny Hill.
Sam Jones, HBell, James Brown and Earl Lloyd celebrate Black Histroy Month on Bolling AFB in DC.

In a conversation with James on our exit from Union Station he asked me, “Harold did you check with Abe Polin?” I pretended I did not hear him and I ask him to repeat himself and he did. I could not believe my ears, my response, ‘I don’t work for Abe Polin and he ain’t my father!’ He said, ‘OK’ and made his exit never to be seen again. The next time I saw him and questioned him about his disappearance. He said, ‘I don’t remember making that committment’ and he has been lying ever since.

CBS/NFL Studio host Jame Brown a benefactor of Inside Sports

“Harold has always been a voice for people who didn’t have a voice. He has always called them as he saw them. He has been an inspiration and motivation for me and a lot of other black broadcasters.” James Brown (NFL CBS Sports)

The evening turned out to be a winner, my ace in the hole was NBA Godfather Red Auerbach. There was a sabortage attempt, and I detected Earl getting a little weak in the knees, he regrouped when I told him Red Auerbach would be at the tribute. The tribute was a success and it was the only All-Star event Red participated in that weekend. Basketball royalty was in attendance, K C Jones, Al Attles, Earl Monroe, Phil Chenier, Jim ‘Bad News’ Barnes,Sonny Hill, Sam Jones, Wizards’coach Leonard Hamilton, and Clarence ‘Bighouse’ Gaines.

Earl Lloyd was finally inducted into the Naismith Basketball of Fame in 2003 over fifty years later. Thanks to Red Auerbach, and the late Washington Times sports columnist Dick Heller without them Earl never would have made it, better late than never.

EARL & DAVE Scan0003
Earl Lloyd’s 2003 induction into the NBA Hall of Fame–NBA legend Dave Bing looks on.

There is a familiar warning, “If you don’t know your history you are bound to repeat it!”

We were warned by the Kerner Commission in 1968 assembled to find out the reason for the disturbing uprisings in the inner-city. The Commission “forewarned that we were headed for two different societies, one black and one white, seperate and unequal” and here we are 50 years later.

The Kerner Report was released on February 29, 1968, after 7 months of investigation. The Report became an instant best seller, and over 2 million Americans brought copies of the 246 page document. Its finding was that the riots resulted from black frustration at lack of economic opportunity. Dr. King pronouced the report a “A Physician’s warning of a approaching death, with a prescription for life.” The prescription had no refills.

The Kerner Report suggested that one main cause of urban violence was white racism and suggested that white America bore much of the responsibility for black rioting and rebellion.

The report berated federal and state governments for failed housing, education and social-service policies. The report also aimed some of its hashest criticism at the mainstream media, “The press has too long basked in a white world looking out of it, if at all, with white men’s eyes and a white perspective.”

For the past 50 years black leaders, politicians, ministers, judges, educators, law enforcement, media personalities and especially my hero, Congressman John Lewis and the Congressional Black Caucus have sit on their hands singing, “We Shall Overcome” while doing absolutely nothing to improve the plight of the poor and down-trodden.

First, they made Bill Clinton “The First Black President” to keep hope alive and he did absolutely nothing. The first Black President Barack Obama took the country by storm and at last the caucus was singing a brand new song, “Free at Last!” By the time President Obama made his decision to attend his first ever Black Caucus Week End Dinner, his first words to them were, “Stop complaining.”

Enter surprise, President Donald Trump. His first words to Congressman John Lewis after Lewis called him a illegitimate President, “All talk and no action.” Trump’s response is equivalent to Obama’s shoutout to the Congressional Black Caucus. The problems that people of color are having were decades in the making, long before Donald Trump. You cannot lay all this BS at Trump’s White House, despite the fact he does have issues.

There is a familiar warning, “If you don’t know your history you are bound to repeat it!”

Dotie and Red Auerbach they just didn’t talk the talk, they walked the walk.

Red and Dotie on Inside Sports share a laugh with telephone guest tennis icon, Jimmy Connors.

The Red Auerbach effect was evident in 2011, NBA awards were handed out to Ray Allen of the Celtics, the Player of the Year, Dwight Howard of Orlando the Defensive Player of the Year, and Coach Mike Brown of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Coach of the Year. Rookie of the Year was Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose and the Sixth Man of the Year was Dallas Mavericks, Jason Terry. The NBA’s leading scorer, rebounder, and assist leader, the recipients were all black. The footprints in the sand left by Red Auerbach and Walter Brown can still be seen all over the league.

Red Auerbach’s won-lost record in Human and in Civil Rights was nothing to sneeze at—-he was in a class by himself. The NAACP needs to read its own history, they honored Red in 1960 during Black History Month for his many contributions to human and civil rights. This is the same honor the Boston Police Department has bestowed on him 58 years later, where is the beef?

When I coined the phrase, to close my sports talk show in the 70s “Every black face you see is not your brother and every white face you see is not your enemy”, Red and President Richard Nixon were the inspiration.


How can we make February Black History Month and ignore the contributions of white folks? Two wrongs don’t make a right. Red Auerbach, and the Brown Boys, Walter and John–the common denominator, they freed a lot of people. My question to the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus—whats in your wallet?

Red has the last word /

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