Red Auerbach: The Harvard Business Review Interview

Part 6

HBR: What else goes into the relationship with the players?

AUERBACH: I think the players know that if I make a decision, we're all going to stand with it. The players won't con me because I don't con them. They don't give me what we call false hustle, when a guy just goes through the motions but he's not really putting out much effort.

"I've turned down a lot of trades where I might have gotten a better player but I wasn't sure of the chemistry.". How do you discipline your athletes?

We like our players to play for fun and to be happy rather than afraid. It's like that in any business. If you have employees who work through fear, you're not going to get any ingenuity out of them. You're not going to get any employees who will take a gamble or come up with ideas. All you'll have are robots that are going to do their jobs, have a low-key approach, stay out of trouble. They'll put in their hours and go home. But I'd rather have it the other way.

So we talk to people. We don't fine them indiscriminately. A lot of teams have rules that say if you're late or miss a plane, you get fined. We have rules, but we temper them with mercy. We talk to people. And we never threaten employees specifically.

What I used to do when I coached was this: I wouldn't say that if they did something I'd fine them a thousand dollars or I'd suspend them; I'd just say that if they did something I'd bust their hump. So then they'd wonder, what is he going to do?

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