By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
WESTON Nobody knows when the Boston Celtics -- or any other NBA team -- will resume play. But when the C's do take the court, their defensive play will have a new face for the third straight season.
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers confirmed that Mike Longabardi, who was promoted to bench assistant this summer, will be leading the C's defensive efforts.
The last two coaches in that role were Tom Thibodeau and Lawrence Frank who are now NBA head coaches in Chicago and Detroit, respectively.
"Longo (Longabardi) will be the leader (defensively)," Rivers said shortly before participating in a celebrity golf tournament at the Weston Golf Club.
While Thibodeau and Frank were given much of the credit for the C's defensive success, Rivers said his other assistants will have similar input with Longabardi that they had with his predecessors.
"(Assistant coach) Kevin Eastman was really important for Lawrence and Tibs," Rivers said. "That role won't change much at all."
Having an assistant coach who specializes in offense or defnese is a relatively new concept.
One of the first coaches to do so -- and do it well -- was former Celtic great Larry Bird when he coached the Indiana Pacers.
Bird had former Celtic Rick Carlisle (current head coach of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks) in charge of his offense, while Dick Harter handled the Pacers defensively.
Rivers has tried to have at least one assistant in charge of the defense, but admits that it has been hit and miss.
"It was something I always wanted to do," Rivers said. "I always thought it was the right thing to do. Having spent a lot of time with the football coaches, you always felt they were ahead of the curve. They either hired an offensive or defensive coordinator. I thought if they do it with the amount of players they have, we should be able to do it with the amount of players we have."
Rivers added, "If you noticed, I changed that position a lot in Orlando and here. I kept looking for the right one. Tibs, for me, was that guy. He loved doing it. That's what he wanted to do. It really allows you to coach the team, so it's really important."
So is staying true to the keys to the C's success in recent years, which begins with strong play defense.
"We pretty much know who we are," Rivers said. "We're not changing much as far as our identity defensively and stuff like that. But there are areas we want to improve on, on offense and defense and we're going to do that."