Red Auerbach, legendary Boston Celtics coach and president, spent Wednesday Oct. 21 at Williams. He met with the men’s and women’s basketball teams, faculty members, a sociology class and gave a public lecture. He was the first lecturer in the Class of 1948 Distinguished Visitor’s Series.
The lecture on Thursday night was entitled “Leading the Team: Management by Auerbach.” Professor of Psychology Al Goethals introduced Auerbach and described him as “having a career as a practitioner of leadership.” Goethals called Auerbach, “an American scholar of leadership.”
Auerbach has published five books including, most recently, “MBA: Management by Auerbach: Management Tips from the Leader of One of America’s Most Successful Organizations.”
Auerbach’s talk was very anecdotal. He shared stories about his dealings with referees, other NBA teams, his trip to Eastern Europe with the US national basketball team in 1964 and his views on today’s professional basketball players.
“People ask me about how I used to deal with referees. I used to adjust my pre-game talk to my players depending on who the referee was,” he said. He even mentioned that he would purposely get himself thrown out of games at times to give his team some fire.
Auerbach also mentioned the importance of “getting people in the seats. We had to do a lot of work to promote the game at that time,” Aurbach said. “We would give clinics, have exhibitions and have giveaways.”
A large part of his talk was taken up with his stories of traveling with the US basketball team in 1964. “In 1964 I took a team behind the iron curtain. It was the height of the Cold War then. The State Department asked me to do it and of course I would. The team went to Egypt, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia.” Auerbach spoke about how he enjoyed lighting up his victory cigar before the games in Eastern Europe.
“In those days we had fun. You don’t have that today,” he said.
In the question and answer period, Auerbach spoke candidly about a variety of topics â€“ everything but the current NBA lockout.
He said his proudest moment as a coach was when he won the first of the Celtics’ eight consecutive championships. He called Bill Russell his best acquisition and admitted that he didn’t think that Larry Bird would be as good as he turned out to be. He spoke proudly about how loyal his Celtics players were and how that loyalty was viewed by other teams who hired former Celtics players as coaches.
“Loyalty is the name of the game. We had a reputation for being a team that exuded loyalty and the team work ethic. Unfortunately, there is no loyalty in the game anymore,” he said.
When asked about the intelligence of his Celtic teams as compared to the 1973 Knicks who are considered the most intelligent team ever, Auerbach responded with his funniest comment of the evening, “Next question! The Knicks win two championships in 53 years, pretty goddamn smart.”
The Class of 1948 Distinguished Visitor’s Series was begun this year by the generosity of the Class of 1948 on the fiftieth anniversary of their graduation. The goal of the program, according to Goethals, is for the visitors to meet with students in a classroom setting, thereby linking the visitors to curriculum.
“We ran him ragged,” Goethals said. Auerbach met with the men’s and women’s basketball teams, had lunch with members of the faculty and staff, met with Professor of Sociology Robert Jackall’s course, “Following Leader: Tradition, Charisma and Beaurocracy,” held a faculty seminar at the Oakley Center, and gave the public address at 5:30.
“I found him to be very interesting and very smart,” Goethals said. “I learned a lot about how strong people lead other strong people, and how best to incorporate one’s own personal goals with team goals.”
The next visitor in the series will be Charles Johnson, the Parliamentarian of the US House of Representatives.
The Class of 1948 Distinguished Visitor’s Series is part of the new Leadership Studies course cluster that was begun this year. Goethals is the head of the program. In order to graduate with a concentration in Leadership Studies, a student will have to have taken two cluster courses, two elective courses and Psychology 402, Topics in Leadership.
Goethals and Dean Wanda Lee are currently working to develop various experimental work that will incorporate the leadership studies with practice in leadership. “We want everything done with the program to be tied with the curriculum,” Goethals said.
Having Leadership Studies as a part of the curriculum has long been an idea of the College. Professor of Political Science Emeritus James MacGregor Burns had been interested in the idea. The idea further took shape when Goethals taught Psychology 342, Leadership, two years ago.
Leadership Studies is also part of more public spirited, public minded aspects to the College curriculum. “I think that Leadership Studies and the new program in teaching certification speak to each other. We can have a tremendous effect with these programs,” Goethals said.
“Right now, everything is wide open. I’m very interested to hear what students think. Will Slocum has expressed interest in exploring internship programs and connecting that in some way with the Leadership Studies initiative.”