I know these are different times and far different circumstances, but Red Auerbach would never have done such a thing. If the Nets wanted a guy who was under contract to the Celtics, Red would have made the Nets pay. Even if Red didn’t want the guy around anymore.
Let’s go all the way back to the 1969-70 season when 41-year-old Bob Cousy was coaching the Cincinnati Royals and reluctantly agreed to come out of retirement to help the cash-strapped team sell a few tickets. Coach Cousy hadn’t played a game in seven years but agreed to lace ‘em up to help the struggling franchise.
“Not so fast,” said Red, who was rebuilding the Celtics after the retirement of Bill Russell. The Celtics still owned Cousy’s NBA rights; he was on their “retired” list. He could not play for another team without their permission. So Red demanded compensation.
“How do we know Cousy isn’t better than ever at 41?” asked Red. “Like Gordie Howe and Pancho Gonzalez?” (Tom Brady hadn’t been born yet.)
The Royals grudgingly parted with 6-foot-7-inch forward Bill Dinwiddie to grant the Cooz his “freedom.”
Cousy wound up playing only 34 minutes over seven games, scoring a grand total of 5 points for the Royals, but he never forgot Red’s intransigence.
“It was purely a promotional gimmick, and I knew I wasn’t going to have an impact,” Cousy said Thursday. “I was upset at the time, but Arnold just did it like he did everything else. He saw an opportunity there and he wasn’t going to let it slip by. That’s why Arnold was as successful as anyone since Machiavelli.”
More than a decade later, Red did the same thing when Dave Cowens, Boston’s onetime MVP, retired before the start of the 1980-81 season. Two seasons later, when Cowens decided to make a comeback, he knew he had to go through Red.
“Red kept your rights,” Cowens recalled this past week. “Just because you were retired, you still weren’t free. I thought I had something worked out to come back with Phoenix, but Red said, ‘No, you’re going to Milwaukee.’ ”
In exchange for Cowens — a player who’d been retired for two seasons and would play only 40 games the rest of his career — Auerbach acquired Bucks starting guard Quinn Buckner, who wound up helping the Celtics’ 1984 championship team. In 1985, Red traded Buckner for Jerry Sichting, who was a key contributor when the Celtics won another championship in 1986.
Seven years after Auerbach died, Danny Ainge and today’s Celtics ownership went through a month-long negotiation with the Clippers for Doc Rivers, who still had three years left on his Boston contract. The Celtics ended up with a 2015 first-round pick.
Like a lot of us, Cowens is surprised the Celtics aren’t getting anything for Udoka.
“That’s how fans are going to feel,” said the big redhead. “Why be so gracious? They’re being more magnanimous than Red would have been, that’s for sure.”
The Celtics are being compassionate. They are being kind to Udoka. They are ridding themselves of a headache and potential litigation. And they are helping the rival Nets.
“He’s possibly going to be the coach of one of our biggest rivals?” Marcus Smart said to the Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach Wednesday. “It’s tough. It makes no sense.”
Red would have hated it.
▪ Quiz (courtesy of Tyler Kepner, author of “The Grandest Stage”): Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long has been a coach for four World Series teams: Phillies, Nationals, Mets, Yankees. Forty-two players have appeared on a Series roster for three teams. Name the only player to make a World Series with four teams (answer below).
▪ The Philadelphia Phillies have played 140 seasons and have never been in a Game 7.
▪ New York Post baseball “insider” Jon Heyman (who has a great pipeline to Xander Bogaerts’s agent, Scott Boras), predicts Bogaerts will get an eight-year deal worth $225 million on the free agent market. The Red Sox’ standing offer to Bogaerts is four years, $90 million.
▪ I know it was the right baseball move, but I still hated seeing Cristian Javier pulled from a World Series no-hitter after six sensational innings in Game 4.
▪ Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told USA Today he didn’t think he was treated right by the Red Sox. He chose not to elaborate on that statement while at the World Series, but the New York Times reported that Dombrowski “never thought he was treated unfairly by any other organization.”
▪ The Cubs last weekend hired Mike Sonne as team “Baseball Scientist.” Seriously.
▪ Hall of Famer Jim Kaat, after seeing Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos’s game-saving catch in the World Series opener: “I like what he did. He played much shallower than the analytics suggested because his instincts told him to do that. What a concept!”
▪ When Philadelphia TV station NBC-10 delivered the news of Brady’s divorce by identifying Brady only as “the losing quarterback in Super Bowl 52,” it reminded me of a long-ago headline in a now-defunct Philly newspaper.
In 1980, while the Phillies were the talk of the town (en route to their first World Series win ever), a local scientist won a Nobel Prize and was celebrated with the headline, “Phillies Fan Wins Nobel.”
Sports Illustrated declared this to be something akin to Polish cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyla (a recreational skier) being elected pope in 1978 and a Warsaw newspaper announcing, “Local Ski Buff Tabbed Pontiff.”
▪ While the team was staying in Philadelphia, a couple of local eating establishments refused to sell catered orders to the Astros.
▪ How many of you knew that George Brett was picked off first base after getting his 3,000th hit? Imagine.
On Sept. 30, 1992, Brett was with the Royals in Anaheim, not far from his boyhood home of El Segundo. He was four hits shy at the start of the day and wasn’t expected to play, but Hal McRae put him in the lineup and Brett went 4 for 5, singling off Angels lefthander Tim Fortugno in the seventh to become the 17th player in hardball history to reach 3,000.
After a pause for celebrations (all of the Royals came out of their dugout to congratulate Brett, and the Angels provided fireworks), the game resumed. Brett took a lead and started chatting with first baseman Gary Gaetti, then got picked off by Fortugno.
▪ Cowboys owner Jerry Jones turned 80 Oct. 13 and his birthday party featured a live, in-house performance by none other than Jerry Lee Lewis, who died Oct. 28 at the age of 87. Jones’s birthday party may have been the last “concert” by The Killer, the man who made his big splash in 1957 with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire.”
▪ Venus Williams sent out an Instagram message indicating she may be retiring. In 27 years on tour, Venus won seven Grand Slam singles titles and comported herself with ultimate dignity.
▪ Good luck to former US Senator Scott Brown, who just became coach of the Amesbury High School girls’ basketball team. Brown was a star player at Wakefield High and Tufts back in the day, and his daughter Ayla was one of the great high school players in Massachusetts history, scoring 2,358 points at Nobles. Also an “American Idol” star, Ayla had a nice career at Boston College after Nobles.
Scott Brown most recently coached a junior high team in Rye, N.H.
Wonder if Coach Brown’s new players will look up old clips of Jon Hamm playing him on “Saturday Night Live.”
▪ According to Umpire Scorecards (an unofficial Twitter platform run by a Boston University student), Pat Hoberg had a perfect game behind the dish in the second game of the World Series last weekend in Houston. The website ruled that Hoberg made the correct call on all 129 pitches that were taken in the game. Take that, Amica Pitch Zone!
▪ Quiz answer: Lonnie Smith (Phillies, Cardinals, Royals, Braves).