April 18-1966, Bill Russell Breaks The Coaching Barier

 April 18-1966, Bill Russell Breaks The Coaching Barier

russell collaeOn this day in 1966, Bill Russell became the first African-American coach of a major league sports team when he took over as player-coach of the Boston Celtics for the retiring Red Aurebach.

In his first year as coach, Russell’s Celtics fell to Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers in the Eastern Conference finals, but reached the finals the next two years beating the Lakers each time.  His last game was a classic Game 7 in which Lakers owner had balloons in the rafters ready to celebrate an expected Laker victory.  Russell used that to motivate his team and told the Lakers’ Jerry West “those fucking balloons are staying up there.”

He coached the Seattle Supersonics from 1973-1977 and coached the Sacramento Kings for the 1987-88 season.

It would not be until 1975 that Frank Robinson became the first African-American coach in baseball and 1989 when Art Shell became coach of the NFL’s Los Angeles Raiders. IN 1969, Lenny Wilkins and Al Attles followed Russell as the second and third African-American coach in the NBA.

To fully appreciate how big a deal Bill Russell was in his time, remember that he was AT&T’s “Mr. Long Distance” way before Cliff Robertson.


HONORS

Russell Trophy

In 2009, NBA Commissioner David Stern named the NBA Finals Trophy after him.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

In 2011, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Boston Statue

In 2013, he was honored with a statue in Boston’s City Hall Plaza.

 

Coaching Record

Regular Season Playoffs
Season Age Lg Tm G W L W/L% W > .500 Finish G W L W/L% Notes
1966-67 32 NBA BOS 81 60 21 .741 19.5 2 9 4 5 .444
1967-68 33 NBA BOS 82 54 28 .659 13.0 2 19 12 7 .632 NBA Champions
1968-69 34 NBA BOS 82 48 34 .585 7.0 4 18 12 6 .667 NBA Champions
1973-74 39 NBA SEA 82 36 46 .439 -5.0 3
1974-75 40 NBA SEA 82 43 39 .524 2.0 2 9 4 5 .444
1975-76 41 NBA SEA 82 43 39 .524 2.0 2 6 2 4 .333
1976-77 42 NBA SEA 82 40 42 .488 -1.0 4
1987-88 53 NBA SAC 58 17 41 .293 -12.0 6
Career NBA 631 341 290 .540 25.5 61 34 27 .557
3 seasons NBA BOS 245 162 83 .661 39.5 46 28 18 .609
4 seasons NBA OKC 328 162 166 .494 -2.0 15 6 9 .400
1 seasons NBA SAC 58 17 41 .293 -12.0
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2015.
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