WHAT WOULD RED AUERBACH DO?

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WHAT WOULD RED AUERBACH DO?

Post by 112288 on Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:16 pm

You know that old adage......for religion it is ...What would Jesus do........in politics.....what would Ronald Reagan do....

Well in basket ball I guess you need to ask yourself....WHAT WOULD RED AUERBACH DO?

Times are a troubling for Celtic fans and team alike....is it the players....is it Docs system.....Is Doc out of touch with his current team and trying to shove his system down players throats who are incapable of executing his system.............is it the defensive coordinator......Is it Danny building a poor team with no chemistry and poor player mix...............WHAT THE HELL IS IT?

I thought I would post this article about Red written by the Harvard Business Review... to try to give everyone a glimpse on what we may need to think and do now and into the future. Our resident historian on Celtic Basketball and Dean of our Chat Sight ...Sam should give some insightful comments to us about what is going on and how it relates to Red's management style and how he handled himself and the team dynamics during bad streaks both as a Coach and as GM & President.

What Would Auerbach Do?
By Beckley Mason, on September 27th, 2010

I recently came across an interview that Boston Celtics legend Red Auerbach gave for a 1987 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

While the focus of the article, mysteriously titled “Red Auerbach on Management,” was not basketball, Auerbach’s insights on management provide an intriguing look at his team building strategy.

In particular, a few quotations on assembling a winning squad seemed relevant today. The greatest talent evaluator and recruiter ever, Auerbach acquired three Hall of Famers– K.C. Jones, Tom Heinsohn and G.O.A.T. candidate Bill Russell– in a single draft. Clearly he could spot a great player, but back then Auerbach had to do it on instinct as much as metrics. Like a wayward explorer, Red survived the backwoods of the NBA’s early years using only the smells wafting on the breeze and a spear fashioned from a grizzly’s femur. Today, we have cell phones and Synergy Sports. “I had no scouts,” he says, “We had no movies, no video. Today we have six guys doing what I used to do.”

Now those six (more likely 15) guys are also spending time compiling statistics and crunching numbers. These advanced (accurate) metrics are the primary evaluating tool in today’s NBA, but here’s what Red said about the role of statistics in his 1987 front office:

Well, it started way back, when Walter Brown owned the team. I had this theory, which we still use. And that is, a player’s salary is determined by what the coaches see and what I see. What determines a player’s salary is his contribution to winning—not his statistical accomplishments.

I don’t believe in statistics. There are too many factors that can’t be measured. You can’t measure a ballplayer’s heart, his ability to perform in the clutch, his willingness to sacrifice his offense or to play strong defense.

See, if you play strong defense and concentrate and work hard, it’s got to affect your offense. But a lot of players on a lot of teams, all they point at is offense. Like in baseball they say, “I hit .300 so I should get so much money.”

I’ve always eliminated the statistic of how many points a guy scores. Where did he score them? Did he score them during garbage time? Did he score them when the game was on the line? Did he score them against good opponents? There are so many factors.

Red died four years ago, so we can’t ask him what he thinks about the advanced metrics commonly used today. The stereotype that stat experts are“nerds in their parents’ basements”—long attached to stat-heads by lazy commentators who were terrified by evidence proving they really don’t know the back of their hands—has eroded significantly.

Every NBA team employs a group of interns and analysts who crunch numbers to determine what a player’s productivity means. And every writer risks being flayed, seasoned, skewered and flame-broiled by Deadspin if he/she doesn’t properly support punditry with points-per-possession.

But from this interview alone one can imagine Auerbach being a few years ahead of the trend. His beef with statistics is not that they are the “indoor kids” of Understanding Basketball Summer Camp, but that the statistics available were not representative of a player’s worth: “what determines a player’s salary is his contribution to winning—not his statistical accomplishments.”

Today, we can and do measure a player’s ability to perform in the clutch, and we can adjust for weaker competition.

On defense, we can see how well players defend in isolation situations and we can track how well a player closes out shooters. Interpreting these numbers will always leave some wiggle room, but we can prove Mo Williams is essentially a poor defender because he gave up 1.03 points-per-possession in isolation situations, good for 305th in the league. But we also know that the Cavs had a solid defensive scheme, and that Williams understood his role in it, because his rank skyrocketed to 87th when it came to defending pick and roll ball handlers (per Synergy Sports).

As these kind of metrics became available, would Red have used them to determine that Carmelo Anthony isn’t even worth a single Joakim Noah?

Also interesting is that points scored, the metric most often idiotically cited as the definition of a player’s greatness, was valueless in Red’s eyes. As Dave Berri points out convincingly in The Wages of Wins (and on his blog), scoring like Monta Ellis will get you real paid, and maybe even an MVP vote or two, but it won’t necessarily get you deep into the playoffs.

Even the bottom line, does this player help me win, has been quantified in metrics such as Win Shares (Bill James ) and Wins Produced (David Berri).

As statistical analysis has increasingly found ways to quantify the once unquantifiable, I wonder if Auerbach, in the end of his career, would have taken the plunge into a field that may have contradicted his own understanding of the game he loved for some 40 years? Would he stare warily at Ray Allen’s usage rate like so many octogenarians trying to decipher MyBook or FaceSpace? After all, Red’s best player, Bill Russell, never had a single block recorded. Hundreds of shots simply tipped, deflected, and downright swatted away from the hoop and off of the record books. Red didn’t need those stats to tell him Russell was the greatest he’d ever seen, he just knew…or maybe the banners in the rafters had something to do with this conclusion.

We may never discover a suitable metric for “heart” (which is whether fans believe a player is courageous) or how much a player’s interpersonal battle with a coach affects his teammates’ production. Yet team chemistry and pride are the kind of ideas that have always been attached to champions, and Red’s instincts often proved to be the best tool for measuring a player’s capacity for both.

Perhaps this is where Red’s true genius lay, in knowing what mattered and what didn’t. Our modern formulas and computations seek to make plain what he always understood.
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OTHER EXCERPTS FROM OTHER ARTICLES FROM THE INTERVIEW

Red Auerbach on Management
An Interview with Red Auerbach by Alan M. Webber

Former Boston Celtics star Bob Cousy calls him “Arnold.” But most diehard basketball fans know him as “Red.” Hanging from the rafters of the Boston Garden are 16 green-and-white championship banners, testimony to his managerial genius.

He is Arnold “Red” Auerbach—inspiration and leader of the most successful sports franchise in America. For 36 years, as coach, general manager, and now president of the Boston Celtics, Mr. Auerbach has practiced his style of management in an enterprise in which the difference between winning and losing is very clear and very public. His management philosophy, based on the values of loyalty, pride, teamwork, and discipline, is applicable to managers in any field. And the results he has attained—measured in athletic and economic terms, or even just in the number of victory cigars he has savored—demonstrate his ability to make this philosophy work.

Mr. Auerbach is the author of On and Off the Court (Macmillan, 1985), written with Joe Fitzgerald. This interview was conducted in his Boston office by Alan M. Webber, managing editor at HBR.

HBR: When you started here in 1950, there was no such thing as “Celtics pride.”

Auerbach: Right.

Thirty-six years later, everybody talks about it. It’s at the heart of the Celtics’ mystique. What is it?

It’s the whole idea of caring. I’m in contact with the Frank Ramseys and Ed McCauleys and Bones McKinneys who played for me 35 years ago. I know where they are, what they do. If they want something, they call me and if I want something, I call them.

There’s a family feeling. Two people in particular evidenced it for me. One was Wayne Embry, who played at Cincinnati for nine years and came here to finish his career. He never talks about Cincinnati. He talks about Celtics pride and the Celtics organization.

The other was Paul Silas. One of the best compliments I ever got was from Paul Silas. One day he came over to me and said, “I heard a lot about this Celtics pride and I thought it was a bunch of crap”—because he was an old veteran when he came here. “But,” he said, “I was wrong. I feel a part of it and this has been the happiest part of my career.” It was super. When you hear it from the players, it really makes you feel nine feet tall.

What are some of the things that explain this special feeling?

Well, it started way back, when Walter Brown owned the team. I had this theory, which we still use. And that is, a player’s salary is determined by what the coaches see and what I see. What determines a player’s salary is his contribution to winning—not his statistical accomplishments.

I don’t believe in statistics. There are too many factors that can’t be measured. You can’t measure a ballplayer’s heart, his ability to perform in the clutch, his willingness to sacrifice his offense or to play strong defense.

See, if you play strong defense and concentrate and work hard, it’s got to affect your offense. But a lot of players on a lot of teams, all they point at is offense. Like in baseball they say, “I hit .300 so I should get so much money.”

I’ve always eliminated the statistic of how many points a guy scores. Where did he score them? Did he score them during garbage time? Did he score them when the game was on the line? Did he score them against good opponents? There are so many factors.

So part of the Celtics’ system is the way you set up the salaries?

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.

What are the other factors?

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.

What else goes into the relationship with the players?

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.

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?

How do you motivate the players?

Pride, that’s all. Pride of excellence. Pride of winning. I tell our guys, “Isn’t it nice to go around all summer and say that you’re a member of the greatest basketball team in the world.”

Of course, we used to do funny things. I mean, how many times can you go in there and say, “Hey, let’s win one for the Gipper?” So one day I said to one of the players, Frank Ramsey, “Ramsey, give them a motivating talk.” So he walked up to the board and he put down on it, “If you win, $8,000. If you lose, $4,000.” And they all broke up.

But the biggest motivating force you can have is the championship ring.

And the Celtics players have always responded to this kind of approach?

You see, in sports you have so many things that aren’t expected. There’s so much uncertainty. So when players find themselves in a situation where management has a great deal of integrity and they can depend on my word or anybody else’s word in the organization, they feel secure. And if the players feel secure, they don’t want to leave here. And if they don’t want to leave here, they’re going to do everything they can on the court to stay here.

I’ve turned down a lot of trades where I might have gotten a better player, but I wasn’t totally sure of the chemistry of that new player coming in. Even though he might possess golden ability, his personality and the way he gets along with teammates might be things you just don’t want to cope with.

112288

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Re: WHAT WOULD RED AUERBACH DO?

Post by sam on Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:46 pm

112288,

Two excerpts seem awfully familiar to me. 1. "Pride in winning" sounds much like what I wrote a few minutes ago in our dialog about Green. I said something like "pride in one's ability to make the team better," but it pretty much amounts to the same thing. 2. The likely chemistry of the team with a new acquisition was more important to Red than the player's individual credentials. I will go to my dying breath ranting that many factors go into the performance of a team; but, when it comes to tying them all together into a potent package, chemistry is the utter, absolute king.

After the middle of the 50s, Red didn't have a lot of situations like the one in which the Celtics now find themselves. He'd bring in a draftee or an "oldie but goodie" just about every year, sort of like the Spurs do now. I don't believe he ever confronted a situation in which the great majority of his team had to be indoctrinated simultaneously; but that's precisely the case now. What I call the "womb" of the team would embrace the newcomer and would interactively work with him until everyone knew his tendencies and preferences and knew how to get out of him the very most they could for the benefit of the team.

Of course, I include Red in that womb, and he might have had more votes than anyone else. But, when Frank Ramsey took aside John Havlicek, the guy being groomed to replace Rams, and became his mentor, it wasn't just because Frank was a nice guy (although he was). It was the way those guys did things, and they formed an indestructible culture built around the core that was the team. Given this ethos, how might Red have reacted to the issues of today (besides never having them arise in the first place)?

Red in Training Season

I think Red wouldn't have showcased the rookies so much in favor of spending more time drilling the veterans on getting in synch with one another. My feeling would be that (except for Sullinger, whose potential was not difficult to spot), the main use of rookies this season (if they're not in the D League) would be to finish games when there's garbage time—not to finish games in which the result was in doubt. So I'd see how well each rookie does in garbage time, plus exposing him to different practice situations. Let the veterans (plus Sully) get the clutch experience together, because that's going to be one of their major responsibilities. And learn how to coalesce in the process.

Red and Chemistry


Red had longed to be a teacher from his earliest days. Coaching was never solely about Xs and Os for him. Those were strategy, and they were valuable. But Red wanted to teach a way of basketball life.

Sometimes he hammered it home. Often he used psychology. A few times, he embarrassed people, with Jim Loscutoff being perhaps the most notorious recipient of this treatment and Tom Heinsohn not lagging far behind. (I remember Coach Russelll using this technique on Rich Johnson and Mal Graham in the last practice before the "balloon game" when he had them dribble around the perimeter of the floor throughout the entire practice. Russ' message was clear. "If you want to get on the floor when the chips are down, you have to get better.")

I believe Red would quickly realize that the failure of these guys to develop some common ground in approaching the Celtics' system is the single greatest cause of the Celtics' struggles. If I were Red, the teacher inside me would recognize that all these recent player acquisitions are not simply newcomers. Most are experienced veterans, and veterans can become set in their ways and inured to the systems of which they've previously been a part. I'd try to find some way to convince them that the quicker they can shed the past and embrace a future on the same page, the more successful the team will be and the happier they'll be.

Since one of the best ways to learn something really well is to teach it, I'd try to invent some way to get them to assume a teaching role—perhaps in the video sessions. Instead of pointing out positives and negatives myself, I'd have them do it. I might or might not (have to think about it) tie their contributions to my upcoming minutes allocation. Only when they've finished would I or an assistant coach take over the session, issue appropriate corrections, and emphasize how the day's session fit in the overall system. If I did it right, I'd hope it would make them excited about putting the "lessons" into action and making the system work for them.

Red and the Individual

Just because I preach chemistry doesn't mean I'd forget about the individual if I were Red. Sooner rather than later, I'd have an individual meeting with each team member. (If that had been accomplished closer to the beginning of the season, I'd do it again—this time with the context of a dozen games together under their belts.) I'd ask each player to be frank in assessing his performance to date and, in particular, to indicate how he could be placed in a better position to succeed. I'd ask for suggestions he might have based on his experience elsewhere. I'd quiz him about aspects of the Celtics' system that he might be struggling with, and I'd emphasize that I wasn't trying to identify faults but to help me know what best to emphasize in practice and perhaps individual sessions with assistant coaches.

Red as Tutor

Either based on my own observations or the immediately previous interview idea, I'd have my video guy develop a video customized to each player and outlining things he should work on. I'd include both the wrong way and the right way to do things, and I wouldn't be reluctant to include other teams as well as the Celtics in the footage. A good voice-over by an assistant coach (they could split up this responsibility) wouldn't hurt either.

You'll notice that a lot of my thoughts involve instruction on how to embrace and contribute to the Celtics system because I'm so convinced that it's the number one, two and three need. I've deliberately tried to avoid over-use of practices because I know they're precious. I've also taken liberties with the use of technology because Red wasn't averse to using what little technology was available to him—hence "Red on Roundball."

Failing all of this, I might employ that pointed shoe you mentioned elsewhere.

Sam

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Re: WHAT WOULD RED AUERBACH DO?

Post by 112288 on Fri Nov 23, 2012 12:13 am

Sam,

That was great .......... a real classic!

I am sure Red is lighting a cigar and walking away shaking his head and saying....how did I ever miss spotting Sam .........he would have been a great member of the Celtic team!

I agree completely with what you wrote!

112288


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Re: WHAT WOULD RED AUERBACH DO?

Post by mulcogiseng on Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:48 am

I was waiting for What Would Sam Do? thanx Sam

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Re: WHAT WOULD RED AUERBACH DO?

Post by rickdavisakaspike on Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:49 am

When Doc says things like the following, you know there's a problem:

“Honestly, we shot 53 percent, [so] there’s not going to be a lot of offensive boards," said Rivers. "You know what I mean? So I’m not that concerned by it. [The Spurs] shot 58 percent and they had six. So, you’re a big believer in offensive rebounds I think; I’m not. Listen, like I said, you can pick on that all I want. That is a number I rarely look at, offensive rebounds. Statistically, it holds up. I can tell you, you don’t offensive rebound, you stop transition, you win more games than when you get offensive rebounds. I can guarantee you that on those stats. Obviously, we would like to get some offensive rebounds, and if we’re under there we’ll take them, and we didn’t get any, but that is not why we lost," said Rivers. "Let me just say that. Offensive rebounds are the least of our problems.”

Geez, Doc. Both Red and Bill had this mantra on what it takes to win championships: take care of the ball and don't allow offensive rebounds. Sure, sure, Doc was talking about the Celtics getting offensive boards, but there's a reason both Red and Bill thought they were so danged important.

I think Red would say that Rondo and Pierce are the main reasons the Celtics aren't winning. Both those guys are trying to carry the team on their shoulders by heroic individual exploits. And it ain't working, it's making this team look as lost and misguided as most other teams.

You think that Red would let Jeff Green sit for the whole first quarter while Pierce stumbled around? You think Red would let Rondo get away with making those kindergarten passes, walking the ball up, or leaving his man to freefloat?

Red criticized Cousy often enough in the press. If he had a good offensive game, Red questioned his defense; or, vive versa. He warned Cooz - no fancy passes if they didn't get caught. He notoriously yelled at Bill Russell in his rookie year when Russ was taking too many shots from outside. He was also heard to yell at Russ occasionally from the sidelines to 'move it!'

Doc's being too nice. Maybe he thinks Pierce will play himself into shape, and somehow leave behind the wear and tear of a long, hard-played basketball career. Maybe he thinks he needs to feed Pierce's ego, to make sure Paul knows he isn't going to lose his godgiven minutes to Jeff Green.

With Rondo, Doc lost his leash. Rondo's calling the plays, deciding how many minutes he'll play, and coaching the team. Both he and Doc can't wait until Avery gets back to take the strain off the growing primadonna, I mean, record-setting point guard.

Red would sit Rondo beside him and say, "Repeat after me: it's all about team."


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Re: WHAT WOULD RED AUERBACH DO?

Post by RosalieTCeltics on Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:32 pm

I thought I was crazy while I was watching games and criticizing both Rondo and Pierce. The Celtics claim they have a gem in Green, how is he ever, ever going to feel comfortable in his role if Pierce plays an entire quarter while Green sits on the bench waiting for his name to be called. It just doesn'thappen that way.

I am not saying that Green is the be all/end all. But, he needs a chance to show what he can do.

As far as Rondo goes, anyone who reads my posts during a game will see that there are times when I am totally frustrated with his approach during some of these games. I love the guy, I love his talent, but his head is huge, and he is not running this team the way we all expected he would. Doc has let the horse out of the barn and now he can't catch him.

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Re: WHAT WOULD RED AUERBACH DO?

Post by 112288 on Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:30 pm

Rosalie...that is a very astute observation...your right..spot on!112288

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