1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics coach K.C. Jones yesterday received praise from Caesar. Well, not exactly. The accolades came from his boss, Red Auerbach. In basketball, you can't go any higher than that. "K.C. has done more than I hoped he would do," said Auerbach between puffs of a cigar while he watched the team go through a brisk workout yesterday at Hellenic College. "He's calm and he's loose. The players like and respect him.
"What impresses me most about K.C. is the work he's doing as a bench coach," Auerbach said. "I like the way he's been substituting and keeping the chemistry as high as he has with the players. They all want to play, but you can only play five." Auerbach emphasized that Jones "is his own man. I don't want him substituting with one hand while waving to me in the stands with the other. I'm not going to be here forever. If you've noticed, I didn't go with the team on any of the trips out West."
But Auerbach, as usual, will be seated in Loge 1, center court, when the Celtics, buoyed by a cushy nine-game first-place lead in the Atlantic Division, take on the struggling New York Knicks tonight at Boston Garden (7:30). Auerbach staunchly defended Jones' practice of going basically with a core of eight players. He said he was aware that Jones did not play M.L. Carr in five of the six road games, and that he gave rookies Greg Kite and Carlos Clark just one minute of playing time.
In Auerbach's opinion, there's no need for Jones to change his strategy and provide more playing time for the bench warmers in order to get them ready for the NBA playoffs a month hence. "First things first," declared Auerbach. "You could wind up blowing too many games. You've got to win the division race before you start worrying about other things."
There's an atmosphere of contentment surrounding the Boston organization. K.C.'s relaxed handling of the team in his first year as coach is given as the major reason why the Celtics once again are a happy family. As far as anyone can determine, Jones has not been troubled by any disciplinary problems or complaints from his players.
Auerbach still bristles over the unfair treatment Jones received from the Washington Bullets (nee Capitals). Jones was fired by the Bullets following the 1975-76 season after he had compiled the NBA's winningest coaching record (155-91) during a three-year span. His 1974 Washington team went to the NBA finals, losing to the Golden State Warriors in four straight. Jones returned to the Celtics as an assistant coach under Tom Sanders, Dave Cowens and Bill Fitch. He did what was asked of him in an unobtrusive way.
As Auerbach put it, "K.C. has had a damn good record as a coach. How can I not be content?"