Red Auerbach would have turned 92 today.
In honor, I thought I’d randomly open to a page of John Feinstein’s book about Auerbach, “Let Me Tell You a Story,” and pick an anecdote from that page that reveals Red’s personality. (Feinstein’s book, by the way, is really good, in part because Feinstein is smart enough to sit back and let other people talk almost without interruption for most of it).
“Actually Red did have on other ironclad rule: no one was allowed to eat pancakes on game day. Red thought they would sit in your stomach and slow you down on the court…[The Celtics] checked into the hotel at 1:00 a.m. with a game to be played much later that night. There was an IHOP next to the hotel, and [Bill] Russell and Sam Jones, hungry after the game and flight, went over there to eat.
Both ordered a stack of pancakes. Seconds after the pancakes, Red walked in. Russell was about to take his first bite. Jones had already taken one. To this day, Jones and Red argue about what happened next.
‘That bite just cost you five dollars,’ Red says he said. ‘And either of you takes another bite, it’s five dollars a bite.’
Jones swears the threatened fine was $10. ‘So we both said to him, What are you talking about?’ Jones said. ‘This isn’t game day. We just played.’
‘And I said, “It’s one a.m. We’re playing at eight o’clock tonight,'” Red always says, choking back laughter. ‘I said, “I’ve got one goddamn rule and you two cant even follow it.”
End of excerpt.
Jones and Auerbach go on to debate whether Auerbach actually collected the fine (Red says he let it pass, Jones says the coach indeed collected it). And though Auerbach could be as stubborn as any high-achieving authority figure, he admits in the book that his anti-pancake theory was rubbish.