9/10/08

January 10,1956- Auerbach prefers Bill Russell to Tommy Heinsohn

As stated in a earlier blog post, at the 1955 MSG Holiday Festival, Red Auerbach watched several of the biggest names in college basketball, many who coincidentally joined the Celtics at one time or another in the future. Standout players like Si Green, Willie Naulls, Tommy Heinsohn, and Bill Russell were all there and had good performances, but it's easy to infer one guy impressed Red more than any other and it wasn't Holy Cross star Tommy Heinsohn, instead it was USF center Bill Russell. Red Auerbach spoke with the media on January 9, 1956 and made it clear that he would like to draft Bill Russell. More to come on Red Auerbach's pre-draft comments on Tom Heinsohn.

Originally from the UP January 10, 1956
Holy Cross basketball star Tommy Heinsohn may be the nation's sixth leading scorer but Boston coach Red Auerbach would rather have San Francisco's Bill Russell.

"Let's face it," Auerbach said yesterday at a basketball writer's meeting, "Russell is the best big man in the country today."

Russell and Heinsohn are sure to be "drafted" into big league basketball in the spring when the National Basketball Association picks rookies for next year. Boston-despite Auerbach's admiration- isn't likely to pick up Russell as lower ranking NHL teams will get first pick of college players.

Need A Horse
Auerbach said that any coach's choice depended first on the immediate need of his club. "We need a horse," he said. "We must have the big man and if we could get Russell he could be the answer."

Russell at six feet, 1o inches would provide the Celts with the size they lack. But Heinsohn isn't any midget even among the court giants playing today. The Holy Cross center is six feet seven inches and one of the best ball handlers in the game.

However Auerbach feels that the San Francisco star not only has the advantage in size but is a standout defensively.

"I'm not saying Heinsohn would not be a great corner man.....he could very well be," Auerbach said. "But we need the great player who has the size to cope with the giants that the (New York) Knicks, (Philadelphia) Warriors, and (Syracuse) Nats now have.