Chris Webber, Paul Pierce, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021
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Chris Webber and Paul Pierce
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is set to welcome 15 new members as part of the Class of 2021.Headlined by seven players in Chris Bosh, Yolanda Griffith, Lauren Jackson, Toni Kukoc, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace and Chris Webber, the class features a number of champions and all-time greats from the last 25 years.Joining those seven are Rick Adelman, Bill Russell, Jay Wright, Val Ackerman, Howard Garfinkel, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Bob Dandridge, Pearl Moore and Clarence “Fats” Jenkins.Below, we’ve got you covered with updates and highlights from a special night in the basketball world.

Toni Kukoc On Michael Jordan’s Influence: “Michael Impacted My Life In Every Way Possible. He Wasn’t The Nicest Of Teammates. But In A Way, He Was Pushing Everybody To Practice Good.”

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Toni Kukoc and Michael Jordan spent four years together in Chicago, winning three titles with the Bulls. MJ and Scottie Pippen weren’t so fond of Kukoc when then Bulls GM Jerry Krause praised the Croatian big man, Kukoc became a target for the team’s dynamic duo.

Eventually, the Croatian would play with Michael Jordan when the latter returned to the NBA in 1995, although they couldn’t succeed in that year’s playoff. After that, their relationship improved, with MJ pushing Kukoc to be the best version of himself.

It’s well known that MJ could be harsh on teammates, but that was his way to push them, make them reach the next level, and not settle for the bare minimum. Toni really appreciated that, and now Jordan will be in charge of inducting him into the Hall of Fame alongside Jerry Reinsdorf.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021: Live updates from enshrinement ceremony

The enshrinement ceremony is underway!

Chris Webber

The first overall pick in the 1993 draft, Webber would win the Rookie of the Year in his first season, before spending 15 years in the league and claiming five All-Star nods and five All-NBA selections.

Webber discusses the impact Isiah Thomas has had on his life.

We’ve seen Webber work with Charles Barkley in recent times on the mic, though Barkley’s influence has been far reaching.

Val Ackerman

Bill Russell

Bill Russell has become the fifth person to enter the Hall of Fame as both a player and coach.

Russell received a message from former president Barrack Obama. Russell was the first African-American head coach to win an NBA title with the Celtics in 1968.

Toni Kukoc

One of the best international players to have success in the NBA, Kukoc was an integral part of the Chicago Bulls titles in 1996,97 and 98.

“I would like to thank Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for kicking my butt during the Olympics in Barcelona and motivating me to work even harder to become an important part of the Chicago Bulls.”

Yolanda Griffith

“I was unknown. I came out of nowhere. I never gave up on my dreams and here I am at the pinnacle, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.”

Yolanda Griffith’s Hall of Fame resume stacks up with the absolute best. A WNBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP, Griffith did it all.

Rick Adelman

With 23 seasons as an NBA head coach, Rick Adelman took his sqauds to the postseason in 16 of those seasons.

 

Adelman spent many seasons on the sidelines with the Sacramento Kings, working alongside another inductee of the Class of 2021, Chris Webber.

Ben Wallace

Undrafted, Ben Wallace forged a career that leaves him as one of the most dominant defensive big men to play the game.

“No was not an option. I kept marching. I kept fighting, I kept winning, I kept succeeding. Be strong, be motivated, stand tall.”

Pearl Moore

The All-Time leading scorer in women’s college basketball, Moore averaged 32.0 points per game across four seasons at Francis Marion College.

“I’m thankful for the game of basketball. Basketball made it possible for me to travel the country and overseas, to earn a college degree. From shooting on a makeshift hoop in the yard in South Carolina to playing in the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.”

Cotton Fitzsimmons

Jay Wright

“My Dad is the best coach I ever played for. he coached me in football and baseball, never basketball. He once told me basketball is not a tough guy sport. After I told him basketball was my fabourite sport he fell in love with the game and did everything he could to help me succeed.”

Bob Dandridge

“To me, being a Hall of Famer isn’t about basketball. You know I’ve had to wait a little while but there’s been so much growth inside me that I’m grateful for the wait. I’ve had a chance to be a better father, a better person, some of the grudges I had against some of the guys I played against, all of them are gone.”

Paul Pierce

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a Hall of Famer. The initial dream as a kid is to make it to the league. Now to be enshrined is baketball lore is more than I could ever imagine.”

“We didn’t start off on the best foot. I know you wanted to trade me. I was accustomed to doing things my way, I didn’t like someone coming and telling me what to do. When I started listening to you, that’s when I became great.” – Paul Pierce on Doc Rivers.

Lauren Jackson

Australian basketball legend Lauren Jackson enters the Hall of Fame as the first player from the country to do so.

“This is an absolute dream come true. It’s one of the greatest honours of my entire life, it’s something I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life. It’s so special to be enshrined as the first of many Australian basketball players.”

Chris Bosh

“While I’m here I got to say it. Chris Webber, we’re going into the Hall of Fame with Bill Russell, bro. That’s crazy. To me, players like you guys were superheroes and I spent every moment trying to follow in your footsteps.”

“Basketball wasn’t what I did, it’s who I was.”

Bosh finishes his speech with some powerful words.

Paul Pierce adds own Hall of Fame chapter to Celtics lore

In crafting his Hall of Fame path, Paul Pierce led Boston to an NBA title and became one of the greatest players ever in Celtics history.

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Paul Pierce spent 15 seasons in Boston and led the Celtics their 17th NBA championship in 2008.

As the road to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame played out for Paul Pierce over the past nine or 10 months — from nominee, to finalist to actual, first-ballot inductee — he repeatedly referred to it as the ultimate honor for an NBA player. “That’s the end of your book right there,” Pierce would say. “That’s the final chapter.”

And that’s fine, since it’s his enshrinement and he’s allowed to catalog it however he chooses.

But for a lot of fans, most notably those at the former Fleet Center (now TD Garden) who variously screamed at and for Pierce during his 15 seasons with the Boston Celtics, his big night in Springfield probably will not outrank what happened during all those years 90 miles to the northeast. That road culminated when Pierce’s jersey number 34 was raised to the rafters in February, 2018.

“I was thinking about the last time I pulled ropes up there, I was tearing up crying and I was trying not to cry,” Pierce said after the ceremony. “When we raised the [2008] championship banner, that’s when it all came out. It came out bad that day.

“I was just trying to hold it together [this time], and I just knew that when I first saw the banner lift and I saw it straight and I saw my number. There it was, like, man, all the years I walked into the gym everyday, I looked up and I saw empty spots and I saw all the other jersey numbers. Now I’m on there and that’s forever. It’s just like, ‘Wow, I’m there,’ and now I can say that’s the finish. I left a legacy.”

Pierce will have Celtics company on enshrinement night, starting with Kevin Garnett, who will stand by his side as Pierce’s chosen Hall of Fame presenter. Ray Allen, the third and still estranged of their Big Three, will fill that role alongside Chris Bosh.

Legendary Bill Russell, a Hall member since 1975, will be inducted this time as a coach in recognition of his role as the NBA’s first Black coach and Boston’s two rings under him in 1968 and 1969. And longtime play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman will be honored with the 2021 Curt Gowdy Media Award.

Other teams have alumni; the Celtics have a pantheon. More importantly, reaching the Hall of Fame does not compare to the significance of gaining admittance to that special fraternity representing the NBA’s most storied franchise.

“In basketball, I don’t think there’s any other place you could choose where you would want your number retired,” former Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Pierce’s jersey retirement day. “It would be with Boston.”

“When you’re in the practice facility, you see the numbers every day. It means something. Before I got here, I didn’t realize it. You always hear about the Celtics lore, but you didn’t get it if you weren’t in it.”

Pierce is just one of 22 Boston players whose uniform number has been retired.

Within that, there’s a tiny subset behind the ultimate red-velvet rope: Greatest Celtic players ever. That list, if defined by an all-time starting five, arguably has Pierce on it too.

Relive the top 34 plays from Paul Pierce’s 19-season NBA career.

No better authority than Bob Ryan, the Boston Globe’s longtime NBA writer and columnist, makes that assessment. If you start with Russell at center, add Bob Cousy at point guard and go with Larry Bird and John Havlicek on the wing, Ryan maintains, Pierce is most deserving of that fifth spot.

There even is one category in which Pierce vaults above the rest.

“They’ve never had a guy in this town who was such a consummate all-around scorer,” Ryan said in a 2013 interview. “They say, ‘What about Havlicek? What about Bird?’ Well, John was a run-around-without-the-ball guy, he wasn’t a 1-on-1 guy. And Larry, there were circumstances when he could be guarded or instances when he wasn’t able to get his own shot and needed help.

“The great thing about Pierce is, he could always get his own shot. And ‘his own shot’ meant that he could pull up and take a three, he had that great mid-range jumper, had that beautiful step-back when he cleared space. He could post up. Tremendous driver, ambidextrous driver, great finisher. And he gets to the line and he’s a pretty good free throw shooter. We’ve never had a more consummate all-around scorer.”

Statistically, Pierce ranks among his team’s best. He is the Celtics’ all-time leader in 3-point field goals, free throws and steals. He ranks second in points and shot attempts, third in overall buckets made, games and minutes played. Fourth in blocks (a post-1973 stat that neglects Russell), fifth in assists.

The 6-foot-7 native of Oakland, Calif. who grew up in the Inglewood section of Los Angeles was a 10-time All-Star and a four-time All-NBA pick with Boston. He methodically, eventually, pulled many of the league’s individual chips to his side of the table.

“When you come into the game, you work as hard as you can and at the end of your career, you see what the results are,” Pierce said. “Clearly I worked hard enough to be in this position.”

All the above underplays Pierce’s greatest achievement, though. His long, arduous climb up that Celtics ladder came not by racking up numbers, but by shouldering the expectations that fall on any Boston star. Dave Cowens took the baton after Russell left and the 1960s dynasty ended. Bird followed suit, and after he and McHale were done, it would eventually fall to Pierce to carry the torch.

That’s why his journey is so much more than this weekend’s destination.

“[Philadelphia] had the eighth pick in the draft when he came out and I told our guys, whoever we have on the board, if Pierce is available, we have to take him,” Larry Brown said.

The oft-traveled Brown, a Hall of Fame coach for his work in both the NBA and college, had won an NCAA championship in 1988, the last of his five seasons at Kansas. He knew all about Pierce and his three Jayhawks seasons as the 1998 Draft approached.

If Brown’s statement to the other execs and coaches in the 76ers organization had held that spring, Pierce and Boston would have an entirely different story.

“Well, I had promised somebody else [Larry Hughes of St. Louis University]) that we’d take him if he came out,” Brown, who served as the Sixers’ coach and GM that year, said. “So when it got to be the seventh pick, Pierce’s name was still there. He was the highest player we had rated, by far. Everybody got together and said, ‘Coach, you said we have to take the best player.’ But we took the other kid and Pierce went 10th to Boston.”

After No. 1 pick Michael Olowokandi, after KU teammate Raef LaFrentz, after Robert Traylor, Jason Williams and Hughes, to name five. Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki heard their names before Pierce, too, giving him further motivation individually.

But the team challenge was bigger than that.

The Celtics had missed the playoffs in four of five seasons before Pierce’s rookie season and had not won a series since Bird retired in 1992. They were 108 games under .500 since McHale exited in 1993.

Pierce joined a team — late, after the 1998 labor lockout — built around Kenny Anderson, Ron Mercer, Vitaly Potapenko and Antoine Walker. That crew went 19-31 in the shorted season, and 12 games under .500 again (35-47) in 1999-00.

In September 2000, Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the neck, face and back at a nightclub in Boston’s Theater District, with one of the wounds puncturing a lung and coming within a half-inch of his heart. Surgeons at the Tufts New England Medical Center, according to multiple local reports, amazingly saved the then-22-year-old’s life.

After four days in the hospital, Pierce checked out and went on to play all 82 games during 2000-01, which started about a month later, and had his best season to that point (25.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.1 apg). About the best thing to come out of it, though, was a nickname, “The Truth,” bestowed upon him by an impressed Shaquille O’Neal after a big performance against the Los Angeles Lakers, in which Pierce poured in 42 points. He began a string of five consecutive All-Star appearances a year later in 2001-02.

Paul Pierce gives a first person account on his emotions at the 1998 NBA Draft!

Walker also was an All-Star in 2002 and 2003, but that was about all the Celtics had: Pierce and Walker taking turns with the basketball, divvying up about 40 shots each night and stalling out in the playoffs.

In Pierce’s first nine season in Boston, Walker’s two All-Star berths were it — no other teammate made it to the All-Star Game, never mind any All-NBA honors. Walker got traded before the 2003-04 season and back the Celtics slid to two first-round ousters followed by two seasons in the lottery.

Things got so dismal that when the Minnesota Timberwolves and their star Garnett (a friend of Pierce since their AAU basketball days) played a game against Boston in March 2007, it was clear the Celtics scoring star needed and wanted help. That day, reporters talked to Pierce before the game about hooking up with Garnett in one town or the other, then asked Garnett about the same thing afterward. Little did they know …

On July 6, 2007, Celtics GM Danny Ainge traded for Allen. On July 31, swayed by that move, Garnett assented to be traded from his beloved Wolves to form a new Big Three in Boston. The results were instantaneous. The Celtics won 29 of their first 32 games, finished 66-16 and ground through Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and the Lakers to snag the franchise’s 17th championship.

Pierce, Garnett and Allen all were on the far side of 30 when they finally won in 2008. Their division of labor – Pierce as scorer, Allen as shooter, Garnett overseeing defense – and leadership was impeccable. After averaging 21.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds in the championship series, Pierce was named Finals MVP. And yet, he achieved something even greater that night.

Relive the Celtics’ title run for their 17th championship in the 2007-08 season.

“It means everything,” Pierce said after delivering Boston’s first title in 22 years. “I’m not living under the shadows of the other greats now. I’m able to make my own history with my time here, and this is something that I wanted to do. If I was going to be one of the best Celtics to ever play, I had to put up a banner.”

That crew might have won again in 2009, except Garnett got hurt in February and missed the postseason. In 2010, the Celtics made it all the way to Game 7 of The Finals before losing to the Lakers. Allen left in 2012, joining the arch-rival Heat, and after a dip to 41-39 in 2012-13, Ainge went for the rebuild.

He traded Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn for a season they both disliked. Pierce then spent a year in Washington before playing mostly off the bench in 93 games with the LA Clippers before retiring as a Celtic with a one-day ceremonial contract in July 2017.

As an individual player, Pierce’s reputation is secure. He was a versatile and persistent scorer, using his size and strength to get to his spots on the floor and doing it at his pace. His jump shots almost always eluded the reaching fingertips of his defender, and on his 3-pointers, Pierce often looked as if he were peaking over a fence as he launched.

“He had an unbelievable feel for the game,” Brown said last week. “He was a great shooter. He could finish around the rim. He could stretch you out. I think he was an underrated passer as well.

“Carmelo [Anthony] to me is a lot like Paul. Maybe Carmelo posts up a little more than Paul, but Boston used to run a special post play for Paul that everybody calls ‘Pierce’ now. We’re even running a play at Memphis that we call ‘Pierce.’”

Brown then distilled Pierce’s excellence. “To me, he was somebody who never was afraid to take the big shot,” he said. “The special ones, they’re going to take the big shots and handle the responsibility. To me, he was as good a player in a crucial situation as anybody I’ve ever seen.”

Said Pierce: “You can’t be afraid of the moment. You can’t be afraid to fail. I missed more game-winners than I made, but there were times when I missed, the thing I always told my teammates was, ‘I’ll make the next one.’ I showed that confidence. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, they won’t either.”

Pierce is proud of the time and effort he put in, sacrifices that he only recently has fully grasped. “To get to that point, you really have to have almost no life,” he said on ESPN as the Hall of Fame election played out. “For many years I had fun here and there, but it was mostly business and I’m happy [I did that].”

Happier still to earn his among the Celtics legends and to pay off for fans who came to love his game and him, even when he came back in visitors’ uniforms. So many will make the drive over to Springfield, un-retiring those replica jerseys.

“When I’m long gone and away,” Pierce said, “I always say it like, ‘Look, the Hall of Fame is forever. Having my number hung up in the Boston Garden is forever.’”

Ain’t that The Truth.

@paulpierce34

Bill Russell smoothly transitioned from standout player to an outstanding player-coach as his playing career with Boston waned.

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Bill Russell served as player/coach in his final three seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning the NBA title in 1968 and 1969.

Red Auerbach managed to beat everyone and everything except the grind. All those game nights, commercial flights across the country and back, scouting in the summertime and then fall training camp to launch yet another season took its toll a lot more than inhaling the smoke from his trademark victory cigars.

The Boston Celtics’ patriarch decided to finally step down as coach in 1966 … but not before chatting up the person he always consulted with whenever it was about something big.

His conversation with Bill Russell, from various accounts, went like this:

“Bill, you think Cooz (Bob Cousy) would be a good coach? (Tom) Heinsohn? What about (Bill) Sharman?”

“Those are good choices.”

“There’s someone else: How about you?”

The NBA back then wasn’t the complicated, detailed and hierarchy-layered machine it is today, where coaching candidates go through a gauntlet of executives and a battery of tests to dissect their smarts and strategy and fit for the job. In the case of Who Will Succeed The Legendary Red Auerbach, it was even more simplistic and automatic:

Bill Russell was the only logical choice.

In retrospect, his ascension might seem odd. Not only did Russell never serve any time on the bench in any capacity, he was still a player and the centerpiece of the Celtics’ dynasty. As a coach, he’d be a complete neophyte who’d also double as a player. Which of course made all the sense in the world to anyone who knew the Celtics and Russell.

“Yes, I’ll do it,” Russell said, giving Auerbach the answer he wanted.

That began a clean succession from one Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coach … to one who’s about to get inducted into the Hall — where he’s already taking up space as one of the all-time great players. Russell joins Tom Heinsohn, Bill Sharman and Lenny Wilkens as the only NBA players and coaches in the Hall of Fame (Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden is also double-honored for his work.)

Russell only coached the Celtics for three seasons (1966-69), winning championships in two of them. That ratio can’t be beat in any sport. He had command of the locker room as a coach and stood tall among his teammates as a player, and the results from that double-duty reflected as much.

Russell also became the first Black coach in any American professional team sport. In the smoldering 1960s, where racial unrest raged at times in a decade of Civil Rights awakening, this was no small thing. The meaning of it all definitely registered with Russell, a man of great pride, and how he was put in position of authority and placed in charge of a Celtics team with five white players and six Black players (not counting him).

On April 18th, 1966, Bill Russell was named player-coach of the Boston Celtics upon Red Auerbach’s retirement.

“When I was appointed coach of the Boston Celtics, the players accepted me with no antagonism at all,” Russell said years later. “They respected me as a player and my knowledge of the game and they played as hard for me as they used to play for Red Auerbach.”

Being a player-coach, unheard of today, wasn’t exactly a novelty then. There were five player-coaches in the 1960s and Russell’s former teammate, Bob Cousy, even came out of retirement to hold those dual roles for one season with the Cincinnati Royals. The last player-coach the NBA will most certainly ever see was Dave Cowens, briefly, with the 1978-79 Celtics.

Essentially, the player-coach signaled for any substitutions from the floor and drew up strategies during timeouts, as any coach would. Wilkens held that role with the Seattle SuperSonics and Portland Trail Blazers and he laughed recently at the thought of that happening today.

“No chance,” Wilkens said. “There are too many reasons why that wouldn’t work now. But it worked for me and Bill because as players we had the respect of our teammates. We were still very effective as players, and we were natural and proven leaders. And in Bill’s case, he was the leader of the Celtics from the time he joined the team and the main reason they won all those championships.”

There was another unusual Celtics arrangement with Russell that’s totally foreign now: He didn’t have any assistant coaches. Today, a typical team might have seven assistants (who can’t fit on one bench together), each with specific duties. Russell had a staff of one. He coached the guards and the big men, ran all the practices, called the timeouts and drew up the plays. (Larry Siegfried, a reserve, did help with some bench duties.)

Russell did listen to his players and took their opinions and advice to heart. He said at the time: “The players know I have a lot going on in my mind and I appreciate the help. I’ve never tried to prove that I’m a big genius and I’ll accept all the help I can get from the players. If something’s not right, let me know. I don’t like to single out guys in public. I know all these guys and there’s no point to that.”

Don Nelson, one of the few surviving members of those Russell-coached Boston teams, enthusiastically confirmed Russell’s ability as a coach. Speaking recently from his home in Maui, Nelson — also in the Hall as a coach — said the arrangement with Russell was “ideal.”

Bill Russell had a more than successful transition from star player to player-coach.

Added Nelson: “He was the whole package — great guy, great player, great coach. I don’t know how much better it can get than that. A lot of people say great players don’t make great coaches. But Bill Russell was the antithesis of that. He had greatness in both areas.

“It was the perfect scenario for Red to step down and Bill to take over. He was the most important person in the franchise, and he wanted to do it. He was great to play for. I loved that guy.”

Curiously in Russell’s first season as coach, the Celtics didn’t win the title. They lost in the playoffs to the Philadelphia 76ers and Wilt Chamberlain, the only time Russell would taste defeat against his rival. Boston then delivered back-to-back titles in 1968 and ’69, the last of which was somewhat surprising.

The ’69 Celtics began to show their age and clearly, the dynasty had wrinkles. They won “just” 48 games and weren’t the favorite heading into the playoffs. Russell at 34 wasn’t dominant and the league saw younger big men — Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Nate Thurmond among them — challenge Russell nightly.

Russell averaged a career-low 9.9 ppg (although he did post 19.3 rpg) and fought through knee issues. The Celtics barely survived the Knicks to reach The Finals, and once there, fell behind 2-0 to the Lakers of Chamberlain and Jerry West.

Yet somehow, Russell won his 11th ring after Boston took a thrilling Game 7.

Nelson said: “He played so many minutes and played so hard that he developed hamstring issues. That last title was so hard, it was in L.A. and everything was against us. It took its toll on everybody and probably more on him than anyone.”

In 1969, Don Nelson’s jumper gave the Celtics the cushion they needed to hold on for a 108-106 win that delivered another title to Boston.

A fierce competitor who never relaxed against the other team, Russell had a far different demeanor when it came to coaching his own team. Nelson said Russell wasn’t strict or over-the-top demanding; quite the contrary, actually. In some ways, Russell still considered himself one of the guys, which, of course, he was.

“He was never hard on anybody,” Nelson said. “He was a softy. We all had so much respect for the guy and we did whatever he wanted us to do, and do it best you could. So there was no reason for him to yell at anybody.”

Nelson said Russell remained even keel through the best and worst of times during each season, and likes to tell how Russell reacted after a particularly (and rare) Celtics collapse.

“We were down like 40 points at halftime in Baltimore. It didn’t get any worse than that. What are you going to say to your team when you’re down 40? He got up and just broke into laughter. He said, ‘Sometimes things aren’t going to go your way.’ He was very realistic about certain situations, but when it came to a championship, all that went away and he expected to win those.”

Russell wrote often about his coaching philosophy and experiences in the Boston Globe and here’s one passage:

“I tell all the guys shooting is only one part of the game. There are other parts of the game which are just as important. Playing defense, keeping your man off the boards, setting picks, giving a guy the ball when he’s free and you’re not, all those things.

“At halftime (of Game 7 in 1969) I told them, ‘You’ve got another 24 minutes out there. Whatever we’re going to do, win or lose, let’s do it together.’ We play together, live together, take care of each other, and I would feel the same way about these guys if we lost. We really identify with each other because we know each other.”

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As a player-coach, Bill Russell never lost his trademark focus on winning titles.

After the second title, Russell was finished. His departure from the game was uncommonly quiet by today’s standards. There was no tearful good-bye, no press conference, nothing like that. Russell told the world in a first-person story for Sports Illustrated, then drove his Lamborghini to Los Angeles and never lived in Boston again.

Like most players, he struggled to find his retirement footing. He tried broadcasting but that didn’t last. He did speeches. He got divorced, then remarried. He needed work — the most money he made with the Celtics in a season was $100,001, the extra dollar because he wanted that much more than Wilt, the highest paid player at the time.

Therefore, out of necessity and also by request, coaching came calling again.

Sam Schulman, who owned the fledgling Seattle SuperSonics, wanted to energize the franchise and turned to Russell for the 1973-74 season. According to Russell’s book “Second Wind,” Russell asked for terms considered outrageous then. To his surprise, Schulman agreed to all of them.

Russell took a liking to the young team and was hooked on the city of Seattle, which he found more welcoming to Black athletes than Boston. Russell bought a home on Mercer Island where he lives to this day.

The Sonics had only one winning season before Russell arrived and after a 36-win first season, Russell took them to the playoffs the next two seasons. Russell stressed the tactics that made his Boston teams successful: defense, sacrifice, finding the open man. But the Sonics failed to improve on that despite the presence of Spencer Haywood, Slick Watts and Fred Brown, and Russell was fired in 1977 after a 40-42 season.

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Overall, Bill Russell coached three teams in his NBA career: the Celtics, Sonics and Kings.

His next and final coaching stop wasn’t successful at all, and rather short: Russell signed a seven-year contract to coach the Sacramento Kings in 1987 and was fired after a 17-41 start. Russell was a bit eccentric; he rarely spoke to the local media and was viewed by players — none of whom saw him play — as a grandfatherly type who was fond of telling Celtics tales in team meetings.

Jerry Reynolds, who served a variety of roles with the franchise for nearly three decades, was one of Russell’s assistants then. He recently said Russell really didn’t have a chance and also dealt with unfair perceptions.

“The biggest problem Bill had was the team wasn’t any good,” Reynolds said. “Red Auerbach and Pat Riley and Gregg Popovich wouldn’t win with that team, either. Also, his name was Bill Russell. There are expectations because of that. If his name was Elmer Fudd, it would’ve went a lot easier for him.”

Reynolds noted that Russell was a victim of bad timing as well.

“Bill was also the general manager, he had the No. 1 pick and took Pervis Ellison in a draft that didn’t have a top guy. The best player in the draft was Tim Hardaway, who went 14th. It just didn’t go well. Bill came into a situation that wasn’t a very good one. He was hoping to make it better and it never got better. Fast-forward to today, we haven’t been to the playoffs for the last 15 years around here so maybe people understand that a bit better now.”