Doc Rivers

*(Via Even after K.C. Jones retired in 1967 following a Hall of Fame playing career with the Celtics, he still had racial difficulties in the Boston area.

While coaching Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., from 1967-70, Jones tried to join a golf club near his home and found out blacks were not particularly welcome. But he was accepted at the Wellesley Country Club.

“I played out there, and then two days later I was flying somewhere,” Jones recalled. “So I’m standing by the bathroom and this white guy comes up to me who belonged to the club, and said, ‘We don’t have entertainers at our country club.’ So there was still racism a little … I just left the club over the incident.”

It was against this backdrop Jones had starred for the Celtics from 1958-67, a team that never appeared to have any racial problems. The Celtics, under coach and general manager Red Auerbach, had an all-black starting lineup for a stretch in 1964-65. And it was Auerbach who named player-coach Bill Russell as the first African-American coach in NBA history in 1966 and would hire Jones as the team’s third black coach in 1983.

The historical significance of the Celtics being led by black coaches has come into focus during the NBA Finals between Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers. If Doc Rivers, the fifth African-American coach the team has had, can steer the Celtics to victory, he would become just the third black coach in NBA history to have won multiple titles, joining Russell, victorious in 1968 and 1969, and Jones, who won in 1984 and 1986.

Share  “It would mean a lot to me,” Rivers, who led the Celtics to the 2008 crown and trails the Lakers 1-0 entering Sunday night’s Game 2 at the Staples Center. “But to me, it would mean more to Red (who died in the fall of 2006 before the start of Rivers’ third season coaching Boston). Because he is the one who got it started. Red is the champion of our sport racially. He didn’t see color. He saw green (Boston’s team color). It wasn’t money. It was just team. So all that would mean is that Red Auerbach’s spirit is alive and well.”

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