Bill Russell noted with amusement that the coach in question didn't make the playoffs this year.

Russell can't fathom why then-Chicago Bulls coach Scott Skiles benched center Ben Wallace for wearing a headband in violation of team rules during a 2006 game.

"What did it have to do with anything that's important at all?" Russell said. "All it does is establish: I'm the coach, and you have to do what I say."

Red Auerbach didn't operate that way, a portrait Russell hopes to share in his new book about his beloved, wildly successful coach in the NBA. "Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend," written with Alan Steinberg, was released this week.

After Auerbach died in October 2006, Russell wanted to illustrate what made him great. The best way he knew how was to describe the way Auerbach coached the five-time MVP center.

"I was not a chess piece," Russell said Wednesday. "He knew that in order to get the best out of me, we had to converse as two men."

That Russell is out promoting a sentimental book is hardly evidence he's going soft at the age of 75. He's going to stand up for his convictions and tell you about them _ often punctuated by his infectious laugh.

Russell said he stopped worrying a long time ago about whether something is fair or not.

"I removed that word from my vocabulary," he said. "It's got nothing to do with anything."

So he doesn't care if he was viewed as being prickly with the media, if nobody grasped why he didn't trust them. He remembers what his grandfather and father taught him: "Black men had to understand white men, but not the other way around."

"When I was a kid, the (media) were overtly and proudly racist," Russell said. "The odd thing about it is they were like that and they expected you would like them."

In 1957-58, Russell's second pro season, he won the league's Most Valuable Player award. And yet he was only second-team All-NBA. MVP was voted on by players; All-NBA was voted on by the media.

When he was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, Russell refused to attend the induction. He reasoned that he wasn't going to show up when many of those same writers were suddenly voting to honor him.

Asked once, "How do you handle the boos?" Russell replied, "I don't handle the cheers, either."

He and Auerbach bonded over their shared philosophy. All that mattered was winning championships, which Russell did 11 times in his 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics.