There was no better time to revisit the impact of civil and human rights relating to Red Auerbach and owner Walter Brown of the Boston Celtics than the 2022 NBA Championship Finals. The Celtics headed back to Boston needing a win at home and a win at the Golden State Warriors to capture the NBA Championship–but the Warriors closed out the the Celtics in six games at the Boston Garden 103-90 to win the NBA Championship. Never the less this was a history making pro sports series.
In 2022 the Celtics became the surprise and cinderella team in pro sports. During the NBA All-Star break their won-lost record was below the 500 mark. Their turn-around was nothing short of amazing. They took on the role of David against, the giant Philistine warrior, Goliath,
Their opponents were considered giants in the NBA play-offs, first, the Brooklyn Nets, the Miwaukee Bucks, the Miami Heat and now the real warriors of the NBA–Golden State!
The Boston Celtics were in the 2022 NBA finals with a rookie black head coach, Ime Udoka and that is not the only surprise. There are 30 NBA franchises in the NBA-surprise, there are now 15 teams with black head-coaches. This is unheard in the annals of pro sports in America.
The disappointment–Michael Jordan is the only black owner and he deserves to own a team. He carried the league on his back during his entire NBA career, but there are other blacks who deserve to own a team.
Celtic Pride, Red, Walter, K C and Sam Jones, Dennis Johnson and Jo Jo White were looking down and smiling. Pro sports franchises including, the NFL, MLB and the NHL are still operating in the dark ages with no light in sight. When these franchises are talked about in barber shops around the country, the word most used to describe them, “Plantations”!
The best example; the NFL Washington Commanders defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, he recently proven once again it is best to be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt. He was evidently pissed off about the televised hearings on the January 6th terrorist attack on Capitol Hill by U. S. citizens.
He claimed the actions on the Capitol were nothing but a “Dust Off” and the actions by Black Lives Matter protesting the death of George Floyd were “Summer Riots”?
Minnesota cop tries to get away with murder of George Floyd in plain sight on national television.
Del Rio was fined $100,000 by the team for speaking out of turn–he should be fired. You wonder where are the black players and where do they stand on Del Rio? Probably, the same way they stood on Colin Kapernick. Kapernick is getting ready to walk into a trap as he tries to return to the NFL. Del Rio is waiting and folks who think like him.
It gets worst, Chanel Reynolds the first black woman hired in the Commanders front office was recently seen on television claiming she will bring more diversity to the Commanders front office. I wonder if she checked with owner Dan Snyder and Jack Del Rio first? As it stands at the moment the Commander’s front office is rampant in corruption and sexual mis-conduct? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodel has been called to The Hill to testify on the Commanders and owner Snyder.
News Alert: The NFL Good Old Boys welcomed the first black into their club. NFL Credentials: She is a black woman from Princeton, she sits on the Board of Starbucks and she is married to movie director George Lucas–neither has ever played a down in the NFL. There is no sports background and you can bet The Good Old Boys consider her a SAFE bet.
Back to the NBA: In 1950 Red and Walter began their crusade for equal and human rights in pro sports mirrored abolitionist John Brown’s efforts one-hundred years earlier in the late 1800s. Brown was a white man that took his two sons on a raid on Harper’s Ferry to free slaves. He was eventually captured and executed for the failed incitement of the slave rebellion. John Brown proved, that every black face you see was not your brother and every white face you saw was not your enemy.
It is rather ironic, during the same week the Warriors beat down the Celtics, the country celebrates Juneteeth commenrating the abolishment of slavery in 1865!
In the 50s Red Auerbach and Walter Brown of the Boston Celtics were the leaders in civil and human rights in the NBA.
Black NBA fans considered the Boston Celtics a racist organization getting them mixed in with the city.
I will never forget my friend and colleague the late W-H-U-R radio sports talk show host, Ron Sutton. He said, “Larry Bird is an overrated white boy”! It was Larry’s rookie year and we were both sitting at the segregated Washington Bullets press table watching the Bullets play the Celtics. The game was still in the first half and Larry had scored 24 points. I asked Ron, “Man what game are you watching”?
W-H-U-R sports talk show host Ron Sutton and I smiling for the camera-halftime of a Bullets game.
I went to my mentor, George Solomon, he was the sports editor for the Washington Post and I asked him to let me write a freelanced column explaining the NBA history of the Boston Celtics. It was my first column for a major newspaper. The column took my radio show Inside Sports to a higher level in sports talk radio in DC.
George became a regular contributor on Inside Sports and his writers followed his lead, Byron Rosen, Dave Dupree, Donald Huff, Tom Callahan, Michael Wilbon and Dave Aldridge.
Inside sports Celebrity Tennis Tournament. George Solomon (sunglasses) and the Usual Suspects.
The column cited, Red as the first NBA coach to draft a black player. He drafted Chuck Cooper in 1950. He was the first coach to play five black players at the same time and he was first to hire a black coach, Bill Russell. Russell was later promoted to General Manage another first.
During the Auerbach and Brown tenure Boston Garden was a “Race Free Zone.” The stifling racial strife in the city of Boston for the past 100 years was not allowed in Boston Garden during Celtic games.
When games were played in the garden the redneck riff-raff had to leave their KKK robes and hoods in their cars and trucks and replace them with a shirt and tie, or blue jeans and tee-shirts. Boston Garden security had orders to show them the exit if they did not comply.
Red Auerbach is the greatest coach in the history of team sports (one team and one franchise). His won-lost record in Human and Civil Rights—-undefeated.
The NBA Cares because Dave Bing, Red Auerbach and Willie Wood (NFL) all cared in the late 60s (KIT).
Bing’s basketball camp in the Poconos Mountains and my crew.
Red and K C-luncheon for Kids In Trouble, Inc.
I met Red and Dotie Auerbach on a Chevy Chase playground in a Maryland suburb of DC in the late 60’s. They were hanging out watching Summer League Basketball. When I met them, Dotie was sitting alone outside the fence watching the action. We struck up a conversation about one of the players. I thought to myself “This little white lady knows a lot about the game of basketball.” We would talk basketball for the next 30 minutes when suddenly her husband shows up with cold drinks.
The husband was the one and only Red Auerbach. She introduced us to each other and Red growled something sarcastic and Dotie said, “Arnold, stop acting up.” Red had a demeanor of a tiger when he didn’t want someone getting too close, but in reality he was nothing but a pussycat.
For the next 30 years Red and Dotie Auerbach would become a fixture and supporters of “Kids In Trouble, Inc and Inside Sports.” During that relationship my wife Hattie and I would visit their home in upper NW DC. We would often have lunch with Dotie and she would show off her antiques and art collection in the room of a next door apartment.
Red and Dotie share a laugh with tennis star Jimmy Connors during a telephone interview.
The walls of the apartment had been knocked down to accommodate her collection. The Woodmont Country Club in Bethesda, Md. is where Red could usually be found playing tennis and cards. Dotie was a classy down to earth lady and we fell in love with her. We were and still are benefactors of their generosity and kindness.
I remember the first time Red invited me to have lunch with him. He asked me to meet him on the corner of 9th and F Streets in NW DC. I am thinking we are going to have lunch at some fancy restaurant downtown. I was in for a surprise, he treated me to a kosher hotdog with sauerkraut and a RC cola from a vendor’s stand.
We would later walk around the corner to Ophenhimer’s jewelry store where his brother the late Zang Auerbach worked. Zang had been a cartoonist for the now defunct Washington Star newspaper before his retirement. He would later draw a cartoon of Hattie playing a guitar for her 40th birthday portraying the legendary and late comedian Jack Benny saying “I am 39 years old and not a day older.”
Zang Auerbach’s happy birthday tributes to Hattie and me.
Much like Red, Zang and his son Johnny who also worked in the store were rare jewels. The jewelry store would become my downtown hangout. I remember one day walking into the store and there was Red, Zang and Hymie Perlo joking around. Before I could get through the door, Hymie was asking Red, “What does Harold Bell have on you, every time I turn on the dam radio you are on his show?” Without hesitation Red responded “My wife loves him.” Red was the host once a month of a VIP luncheon in Chinatown on Tuesdays. He would play “King for a Day” Red would hold court and listen to his friends, media personalities and others tell him how great he was.
I really enjoyed the outings when his friend the late Hymie Perlo attended. Hymie kept us laughing and he made Red keep it real with his down to earth humor. With the exception of a few most of the guys in attendance were a bunch of wannabees and being around Red made them feel like they were important!
Red and Dotie’s friendship reminds me of what Muhammad Ali once told me about the definition of a “Friend.” He said, “A friend is someone who is always doing something for others and never expecting anything in return.” Ali, meet—–Red and Dotie Auerbach.
Local sports anchors “A Shutout” The Washington Post (1989)
Red reminded me a lot of Ali when he made his entrance into a crowded room all activity came to an abrupt end. He would be the center of attention. When I called the house to talk with Dotie and once he found out it was me he would shout “Hey Dotie its that nuisance Harold Bell or Dotie its your boyfriend Harold Bell.” Red and Dotie treated us like we were family.
Red Auerbach was a rare “Superstar.” His telephone number was listed and he would answer the telephone. I don’t ever remember him having an answering service or maybe I just never left a message!
2006 marked 38 years straight for Christmas Toy Parties sponsored by Kids In Trouble, Inc. Before Dotie took ill and died in 2000 there was always a check for toys coming from the home of the Auerbachs. Red co-hosted several of my Inside Sports Celebrity Tennis Tournaments. He was a frequent guest speaker for my Kids In Trouble, Inc. forums. He co-hosted and was a regular on “Inside Sports”. In 1990 he co-hosted a show with me titled “Celebrity Sports Calls.”
Our special guest were basketball greats, Sam Jones, Bighouse Gaines, Connie Hawkins, and Al Attles. Red loved to attend and watch “Double Dutch” jump rope tournaments in the inner-city. I would call him and we would go and sit up in a far corner of a gym and enjoy the program. He would swear the kids participating were some of the greatest athletes in the city.
In Houston, Texas somewhere in the 1980s I was attending my first NBA All-Star game. I would encounter a problem acquiring press credentials. When I went to pick up my credentials I was told by NBA Media Director Brian McIntyre that my credential request had not been received. I asked Mr. McIntyre, “Why would I fly all the way from DC to Houston without applying for press credentials in advance?” He was not budging. I remembered talking to Red before I left DC and he said “Harold I don’t think I am going to make this one.” It was then I realized I had an ace in the hole, Red Auerbach.
I asked Mr. McIntyre if he knew Red Auerbach? His response was “Yes do you?” I then asked him if I could use his telephone and he said “Sure go ahead.” I dialed Red and Dotie’s number knowing Red was probably out at the club playing tennis or cards. My only hope was that Dotie would be home.
The telephone rang several times and Dotie answers and I said, “Hi Dotie this is Harold Bell I am at the NBA All-Star game in Houston, would you please speak to Mr. McIntyre he needs verification of who I am.” I gave the phone to Mr. McIntyre and the look on his face said it all. The look said, Dotie Auerbach had ID me. Talking about a look being “Priceless”, he hung up the telephone and was speechless for about 30 seconds. He finally said, “No problem Mr. Bell.” For the next 20 years Mr. Mac and I would be like ships passing in the night-honking horns. Out of the honking horns-came a sense of trust and respect.
Earl Lloyd out of West Virginia State (CIAA) was the first black to play in a NBA game, beating Chuck Cooper by one day (Lloyd was discharged from the Army one day before Cooper).
For years basketball historians like, broadcast and playground basketball legend Sonny Hill, and New York Amersterdam sports editor, Howie Evans were under the impression that Cooper was the first to play. I had Red address the issue in 1974 on my sports talk show “Inside Sports”. He and wife Dotie were my in-studio guests. Red made it clear that Earl was the first to play in an NBA game.
I remember when Earl was the Detroit Piston’s head coach. Dave Bing and several of his teammates conspired to run him out of the Motor City, it was my shoulder he cried on.
The NBA forgot he was the first black to play in a NBA game. Earl played on an NBA Championship team, with the Syracuse Nationals in 1954-55 season. He was named the NBA’s second black head coach with the Detroit Pistons. He could have been the first black head coach ahead of Bill Russell, but Detroit named Dave Debuschere player/coach for some unknown reason!
For years the NBA had forgotten that it was Earl Lloyd who broke its color barrier or ignored the fact. They left him on the outside looking in when it came time for induction into the Hall of Fame. He asked me if I would campaign and bring the needed attention of his NBA contributions. I asked Red, legendary sports columnist, Dick Heller and Congressman John Lewis to join me in the campaign.
Black History Month on Bolling AFB–Sam Jones and James Brown (CBS) pay tribute to Earl.
Red and I pay tribute to Earl at the Grand Hyatt in DC.
Letter from Congressman John Lewis to Earl Lloyd:
Dear Mr. Lloyd,
As a colleague in the civil rights struggle, I am proud to say congratulations to you in celebrating 50 years of integration in the NBA. There is is little doubt that in 1950 your NBA debut was greeted with cheerleaders and pom-poms by NBA owners and fans. I really appreciate the sacrifices made by you on behalf of today’s players. I hope that one day soon they will understand who prepared the table for their present day success.
It is great that the NBA and the New York Knicks are finally recognizing your pioneering efforts in New York City on October 31, 2000. Thanks to the efforts of my friends Harold Bell, Sam Jones and Richard Evans of Kids In Trouble Inc. we are working together in planning a reception on Capitol Hill in your honor.
In closing, I hope you enjoy your special night in New York City. I am looking forward to meeting you on Friday February 9, 2001 during the NBA All-Star Weeekend next year.
Member of Congress
While growing up in DC I watched Earl shoot hoops on the playgrounds with legends that included the great, Elgin Baylor. He was born and raised in nearby Alexandria, Virginia but hung out in NW DC near the residence of his brother on Park Road NW.
In 2001 in Washington, DC I would coordinate and host a tribute to Earl during NBA All-Star Weekend.
I coordinated a luncheon meeting at Union Station to discuss the format and the logistics for the NBA weekend. In attendance were Sam Jones (NBA), James Brown (CBS), Andrew Dyer (Roundball Report), Christie Winter-Scott (Roundball Report), Butch McAdams (WOL Radio) and my wife Hattie. James and Sam agreed to host the tribute.
As we wrapped up the luncheon, James asked me a strange question, “Harold have you checked with Abe Polin?” I ignored him like I didn’t hear him. He sounded more like a slave in 1901 instead of a free man in 2001.
Red Auerbach was not a Yes Man for Commissioner David Stern or Wizard’s owner Abe Pollin. Together we coordinated the celebration for Earl Lloyd. Red was the glue that held everything together.
The NBA usually locks down the host city during All-Star weekend. The lockdown includes hotels, restaurants and any basketball related events not controlled by the NBA. There were outsiders who tried their best to sabortage the tribute to Earl. I thank God and Red Auerbach–they were my aces in the hole.
I am glad I started the campaign a year earlier at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC. There was an all out media assault by the Washington Post and other media lightweights. My mentor sports editor George Solomon refuse to cover the event. Dave McKenna a Washington Post wannabe wrote a demeaning column for the City Paper making me out to be “The Bad Guy”!
ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, and Dave McKenna during tribute to the late Gary Mays seated on right.
I had to call the CEO and Publisher Donald Graham to get Solomon’s attention. Mr. Graham would write a note back saying, “Harold the salute for Mr. Lloyd should have been covered, but George says he was not aware that the event was taking place.”
The Washington Post via their Style section finally had to get on board when the rival Washington Times published a Page One story with Red Auerbach and Earl Lloyd. The story in the Times had Red and Earl looking back on the early years of the NBA during a Black History program hosted by the Smithsonian Museum.
On Saturday morning of All-Star weekend there was a basketball clinic in Earl’s hometown of Alexandria. Several hundred inner-city children participated in the clinic at The John Houston Recreation center. Boston Celtic legend Sam Jones and playground legend Sonny Hill coordinated the clinic. NBA Hall of Fame player Bob Lanier was in attendance to represent NBA Commissioner David Stern. The clinic was a great success.
Sonny Hill and NBA legend the late Bob Lanier confer during clinic at the Charles Houston Rec Center in Alexandria in Lloyd’s honor (Washington Post).
On Saturday evening Sonny Hill and I hosted a tribute and reception at the historic Bohemian Caverns Jazz Club in NW DC. CBS NFL Studio host James Brown and NBA Legend Earl Monroe were scheduled to co-host the reception but disappeared without explanation. Earl would attend the reception later in the evening. I was surprised by Earl’s disappearing act. He had always been a straight shooter.
Sonny Hill (NBA), Sugar Ray Leonard, Ricky Jennings (NFL), HBell and ‘The Pearl’ model in one of my celebrity fashion shows at the Foxtrappe in DC.
Earl introduced me from the audience during his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1989 citing his participation in my community reach back endeavors in DC . James Brown non-response was predictable; his word has never meant much.
In attendance was basketball royalty, K. C. Jones, Arnold Heft, Al Attles, Clarence “Bighouse” Gaines, Sam Jones, Sonny Hill, Phil Chernier, and Earl Monroe. The reception would be the only NBA activity Red would participate in that weekend. I think Stern and Polin got his message.
Red had never got over the way Abe Polin treated K C Jones after the lost to the Golden State Warriors, when they swept the Bullets in four straight. K C was given one more year and kicked to the curve. K C would bounce back.
In 1983, K C took over as head coach of the Boston Celtics, replacing Bill Fitch. He guided the Larry Bird Celtics to championships in 1984 and 1986. The Celtics won the Atlantic Division in all five of K C’s seasons as head coach and he reached the NBA Finals in four of his five seasons as coach. He was a gentleman and a class act. He was like a big brother to me. There were rumors spread he could not coach, spread by his asssistant coach, Bernie Bickerstaff.
K C and Bickerstaff salute DC public high school coach and player on Inside Sports
During the NBA All-Star weekend the salute and reception were the only NBA related events Red Auerbach attended. In 2003 Earl Lloyd was finally inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.
There is a stature of his likeness located on the campus of his alma mater, West Virginia State. In Alexandria, Virginia his hometown, there is a stature of his likeness in the Charles Houston Recreation Center and in NE Washington, DC there is a giant banner on the building Earl Lloyd played his first professional basketball game–Uline Arena in 1950.
This stature and banner stand and hang thanks to the late Red Auerbach, Washington Times sports columnist Dick Heller, Congressman John Lewis and Sam Jones. Hopefully, they are all looking down watching the diversity in the NBA and are saying, “Job well done Harold Bell.”
photos by Fred Shepard
Hattie T and I standing under the Earl Lloyd banner at Uline Arena.
The Auerbachs’ acts of kindness is just not my story, there are probably hundreds more stories like my story in the inner-cities of America. Red and Dotie Auerbach are gone but never should be forgotten in the black community.