April 18-1966, Bill Russell Breaks The Coaching Barier
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.
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.
In 2013, he was honored with a statue in Boston’s City Hall Plaza.
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