No. 4: Sam Jones goes No. 8 to Boston Celtics after Auerbach receives a recommendation
It is a story that many Celtics fans may not even know. After piecing together one of the greatest draft classes in the history of the league, Red Auerbach went back to work the following season looking for another difference-maker. Who knows how true it is or not, but ahead of the 1957 draft, there were no players that stood out in the opinion of Auerbach. The Celtics had the No. 8 selection, so he needed some idea of who he could add to Boston’s already solid core.
Sam Jones, who went to North Carolina Central University, a then Division II school in Durham was an unknown to many. In the previous draft, Jones was in fact picked by the Lakers but opted to return to college after serving in the United States Army for two years. Minneapolis’ rights were thankfully voided, denying Boston’s most hated rival an eventual Hall of Famer.
Former Celtic, and then Wake Forest men’s basketball coach Bones McKinney told Auerbach that the best player in the state of North Carolina was just a few miles away from Chapel Hill. When Boston made the decision on Jones at No. 8 after UNC forward Lennie Rosenbluth sent No. 6, the NC Central product was surprisingly disappointed. According to Jones himself, he did not even think he had a shot at making the Celtics roster. The Florida native thought about declining his second invitation to play professional basketball in order to teach.
In fact, Jones asked the high school if he was thinking about taking a job with a pay increase, and due to the fact that he did not receive it, the No. 8 overall pick found his way to New England. According to Auerbach, he knew Jones was going to be a special talent within the first few weeks since coming to Boston. It took some time, but as his career went on, Jones continued to take steps. Without the wisdom of McKinney and Auerbach’s guts to take the NC Central product on the night of the 1957 draft, there is no telling how many titles the franchise would have without a player that is now arguably considered Boston’s greatest two-guard.