But perhaps he made his greatest impact on basketball history by being traded by the in 1956 at the height of his powers for a man who had not yet played a single game in the N.B.A.: Bill Russell.
Russell went on to revolutionize the game as one of its most dominant centers and lead the Celtics to 11 league championships. But Macauley’s new team, the St. Louis Hawks, also got its money’s worth: the Hawks lost to the Celtics in the finals the next year, then won it all in a rematch in 1958.
Macauley, who died on Tuesday at 83 in a St. Louis retirement home, was a slender 6-foot-8-inch center and forward known for his hook shot and deft passing. In the final game of the ’58 championship, he scored only 2 points but jokingly took credit for the victory, pointing out that the margin was one point. (The Hawks, who won in six games, were helped by the fact that Russell had a sprained ankle that kept him out of two games.)
Macauley’s laid-back manner was often assumed to be the reason he acquired the nickname “Easy Ed.” The name actually stemmed from his sophomore year at St. Louis University, where he was a star on its basketball team. Appointed captain for a game, he led the team from the basement locker room.
“But nobody followed me when I ran down the court and made a layup,” he said in 2003. “Then I heard people shout, ‘Take it easy, Ed.’ I didn’t realize it, but they were playing the national anthem.”
Macauley went on to coach the Hawks from 1958 to 1960, compiling a 89-48 record, while also serving as the club’s vice president. In 1960, at age 32, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and he still holds the record for the youngest player to be admitted.
In recent years, Macauley had Alzheimer’s disease, his son Bob said. His wife, the former Jacqueline Combs, died in May.
In addition to his son Bob, Macauley is survived by his daughters Mary Ann Shortal, Perry Williams and Meg Berry; another son, Mike; and 17 grandchildren.
Edward Charles Macauley was born in St. Louis on March 22, 1928. Within two weeks, he was too big for his bassinet. His mother arranged for him to skip third grade to ease the self-consciousness about his height. He did not play basketball as a high school freshman because of a conflict with a typing class he took. But as a senior he was recruited by Kentucky, Boston College and others, choosing St. Louis.
In college he immediately drew national attention. “At 19, he looks like an overgrown altar boy,” Time magazine said.
In 1948, St. Louis defeated New York University to win the National Invitational Tournament, then considered the national championship. The New York Post reported that “the worst blizzard of the season” hit N.Y.U. in the form of “a 6-8 stringbean named Ed Macauley.” He scored 24 points in a 41-24 victory.
Macauley was drafted by the struggling St. Louis Bombers, who had stayed in business just for the chance of acquiring him, Life magazine reported. He had a good rookie year, but the Bombers folded anyway. The New York Knicks tried to buy the Bomber franchise for $50,000 to get him, but the N.B.A. vetoed the deal. Macauley ended up going to Boston in a special draft. He, Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman gave life to the struggling franchise.
In 1956, the Hawks sought to use their No. 1 draft choice, Russell, from the University of San Francisco, in a trade for Macauley and Cliff Hagan, who had been in the military and went on to be a Hall of Famer. The Celtics owner Walter Brown balked at first. But Macauley told him he would actually welcome the chance to return to his native St. Louis to care for a disabled son.
Brown wrote Macauley, saying: “What this means for the Boston Celtics, God only knows. You have heard me say many times that as long as I have Ed Macauley, I have a ballclub. Well, now I don’t have Ed Macauley. This is the hardest letter I ever tried to write.”
Macauley played three seasons in St. Louis. His career average was 17.5 points in 641 regular-season games and 13.8 in playoff games.
His slender build did not diminish his defensive prowess. In winning the M.V.P. trophy in the all-star game, he held the 7-foot star George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers to 4-for-17 shooting. Mikan’s $20,000 salary was the only one that exceeded Macauley’s $17,500.
Macauley became a television commentator and director in St. Louis, and devoted himself to causes like counseling prisoners and fighting abortion. He became a deacon in the Catholic church, and wrote a book on how to deliver a good sermon. His advice: “Preach as Jesus preached.”