Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Jackson can't pass Auerbach when Celtics roll
BOSTON -- Light up one more for Red.
Some fans wore green Celtics jerseys with the name "AUERBACH" in white capital letters on the back. Others puffed victory cigars -- an understandable disregard of anti-smoking laws on a special night -- just as the team's late patriarch often did.
After all, Boston did more than just win its first NBA championship in 22 years with a 131-92 rout of Los Angeles on Tuesday night. The Game 6 victory kept Lakers coach Phil Jackson from breaking a tie with Auerbach for most titles by an NBA coach. Each has nine.
"This win is for Red Auerbach," owner Wyc Grousbeck said. "Red believed in our ownership group and got it done."
Grousbeck's group took over the franchise on Dec. 31, 2002. Auerbach, who was president at the time, died on Oct. 28, 2006, at the age of 89.
NBA commissioner David Stern, though, could sense his presence.
"Somewhere," he said during the postgame ceremonies, "Red is lighting up a cigar."
Nine of the 16 championship banners hanging from the rafters were won by teams Auerbach coached. He was in the front office for the other seven.
Doc Rivers' coaching career with the Celtics is far less distinguished. And he was widely considered inferior to the bench skills of Jackson.
The Celtics doused Doc Rivers with Gatorade when the game was well in hand.
Not in this series. Losing coaches don't get doused with Gatorade.
Pierce poured a bucket of the red beverage on Rivers, saturating his sharp suit and getting a big smile and a tight hug in return.
"Just from watching other sports and throughout the years, all the championships that were won, I was like, 'Hey, what's a championship without a splash of Gatorade,'" Pierce said. "I looked up, and nobody thought of it, so I said, 'Hey, at the 4:00 mark we're going to get him,' when I knew we had the game sealed."
Auerbach died the year the Celtics began their second worst season ever, going 24-58 in Rivers' second year as coach. In his first three seasons in the job Auerbach held, Rivers was 102-144 with one playoff series -- a seven-game loss.
But this season, with the addition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to go with Pierce, the Celtics had an NBA best 66-16 record, beat Atlanta and Cleveland in seven-game series and Detroit in six games to set up the Finals matchup with Los Angeles.
"This is unreal. Where we came from a year ago, where I was at, to be here today celebrating with my teammates," Pierce said. "I'm just glad Doc ... the city of Boston stuck with me during the hard times."
Rivers, a self-effacing coach who credits his players, put his own stamp on the team from the first day it gathered before the season.
"Defense. I said defense," Rivers said. "We play defense we're going to win the world championship. That's what they did. They were phenomenal all year."
Since 1950, only two teams have won the title a year after missing the playoffs. The 1975 Golden State Warriors and the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.
"My first year wasn't bad; we won our division," Rivers said. "I thought the two years in between is when I appreciated the Celtic fans more than anything, and really on the road. ... Some of them said, 'Get rid of Doc,' but most of them were cheering."
After winning the championship Tuesday night, he thought of his father, Grady, who died during the season.
"My first thought was what would my dad say," Rivers said, "and honestly I started laughing because I thought he would probably say, if you knew my dad, 'It's about time. What have you been waiting for?'"
Auerbach once minimized Jackson's titles by saying he "picks his spots," implying that his championships resulted from coaching stars such as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
This time, though, the Celtics had the better players -- and the better coach.