Sunday, October 29, 2006

Frozen tapes Red Auerbach's last interview

Red Auerbach, who built the Boston Celtics into one of the greatest dynasties in sports, presiding over 16 National Basketball Association championship teams as a coach, general manager and club president, died yesterday in Washington D.C. He was 89.

Red's final appearance will be in Basketball Man.

Burt Kearns and Brett Hudson of Frozen Pictures recently conducted Red’s last interview at his home in Washington D.C. over the summer. Ian Naismith, who's featured in the documentary, was there as well, and spent private time with the basketball legend.

"It was hot, it was humid, it was Washington D.C. at the peak of a steamy summer," Kearns recalls. "Red was in his study, surrounded by memorabilia and memories of a great life and monumental career. He sat in a big stuffed chair near the window. He'd just completed his latest dialysis session. In fact, the machine was next to him as we did the interview. You had to look hard to see Red Auerbach in the man sittting there. And it was all the more poignant because of the portraits and photos that covered the walls, showing the vigorous, bouyant Red we all know, clutching that cigar.

"There were long delays with the crew setting up. But we finally got started. I asked to Red about his boyhood, why he wanted to coach, and he began to speak. Red Auerbach was on the mark. He was there all right, quick and with authority. He was insightful, he still had the fire and left no doubt that winning was what mattered in any sport. I felt a little bad doing it, but I handed him a basketball and asked him what came to mind when he held it. He ran his fingers across the ball and said, 'Put it in the hole.'

"Red and his family were very gracious that day. We'd kept him sitting, waiting in that hot room with no air conditioning for an hour. When the interview was over, he held up the TV remote that was velcroed to the arm of the chair and he said, 'I've been doing interviews for sixty years. And you guys are Number One.' I looked at the cameraman. Wow. We smiled with pride, but before we could reply, Red finished the sentence:

"'The slowest fucking crew I've ever worked with!'"

Basketball Man, which tells the story of the life and legacy of Dr. James Naismith, inventor of basketball, is set to be released on DVD in February. Red's entire interview will be included among the bonus features.

Ian Naismith, grandson of basketball's inventor, with Red Auerbach during the great's last interview.

Some quotations from Red's interview:

"Basketball is like a war. You develop the offense how to score how to drive how to pick off, all those offensive skills, then the defense goes to work and figures out ways to stop you and that’s what’s been the history of basketball.

"If you keep score, you play to win. I don’t care what it is. That’s always been my theory. I can't stand these guys who cant wait to shake hands at the end. In the old days, we lost, we got outa there. We didn’t congratulate them."

And what comes to mind when he holds a basketball?

"Put it in the hole."

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