Red Auerbach: The Harvard Business Review Interview

Part 5

HBR: So part of the Celtics' system is the way you set up the salaries?

AUERBACH: Well, it's not just the money reward, it's more than that. It's like Larry Bird always says before a big game: "I'll be ready and the other guys will be ready and we're going to win this thing." Not "I'm going to win it." He says, "We're going to win it." Larry Bird gets as big a thrill out of making the pass as he does making the shot.

HBR: What are the other factors?

AUERBACH: One important thing is trust within our organization. I really believe that loyalty is a two-way street. Unfortunately, in most businesses managers expect loyalty from employees but are very reluctant to give loyalty.

We've built up an organization where we care about our people. That doesn't mean that you can't make trades. You must have a certain amount of flexibility so if you feel you can improve your club, you go ahead and make a trade. But over the years we've made very few trades. Anybody who's been with us for more than five or six years will usually finish his career here. And when a player is on the tail end of his career, we don't just say, "We paid you, you played. See you later."
Most of our players have self-retired. They tell me when they don't think they can play anymore. The Jones boys, Cousy, Russell, Havlicek, Sanders, Nelson, Heinsohn--they all announced their retirements with no pressure from me whatsoever. People who come here realize that if they produce and do the job as they should and are happy here, we'll do our best for them. And we're interested in what they do when they leave here, when their careers are over.

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