Red's First Five Seasons in Green: An Inauspicious Beginning

The 1954-55 NBA season was Red Auerbach’s fifth with the Boston Celtics. Although the Celtics were 44 games over .500 during Red’s tenure, the team had yet to make the Finals, much less win a championship.

The season began with great optimism. The Celtics had made it to the Eastern Conference Finals just a few months earlier, and had added Frank Ramsey and Cliff Hagan via the draft (Hagan served two years in the military, and then was traded with Ed Macauley to the St. Louis Hawks for the draft rights to Bill Russell). Red had promised great things to come for the green. Instead, the Celtics finished 36-36, and then lost in the playoffs to the Syracuse Nationals for the second straight year.

Worse, the Celtics were losing money hand over fist.

In Red's first year, the Celtics ended the season on a 25-16 run, which increased attendance enough to cut the team's losses to $11,000. But by 1954, the Celtics were losing over $100,000 a year, and the losses continued to grow in 1955.

The team's owner, Walter Brown, complained of a bloated payroll. When Bob Cousy, the Celtics star player and highest paid athlete in pro basketball, scored four points in a loss to Philadelphia, Brown said, "that's a lot of money per point. I don't need an expensive club to lose games. I can lose just as easily with a cheap one."

Brown blamed the coach as well.

After the 1955 playoffs ended with another loss to Syracuse, Brown cut Auerbach's salary. Some local sports writers felt Brown should have canned Auerbach outright: "Much to my sorrow, Red Auerbach will return to the Hub next year as chief of the Celtics," wrote Tom Carey of the Worcester Gazette. "For my money, Arnold "Red" Auerbach is the most overrated coach in sports."

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