As a former Boston Celtics assistant coach, Tom Thibodeau was one of the chief architects behind a Celtics defense that ranked among the best in the league.
That defensive mindset remains strong in Boston, although you wouldn’t know it by the way the Celtics have been playing at that end of the floor recently.
Fired in January by the Minnesota Timberwolves as their head coach and president of basketball operations, Thibodeau has been making the rounds, visiting former colleagues and organizations that he has worked with previously.
He was in town recently to catch a Celtics shoot-around and later a game against the Miami Heat.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about having the defensive-minded Thibodeau around and getting his take on the team’s defense.
“He’s probably so mad at watching it,” Stevens said.
While there’s no question Boston’s defense has undergone some slippage the past couple of months, you can count Thibodeau among those who believes they will be fine at that end of the floor come playoff time.
“They have length defensively, with multiple guys that can defend multiple positions at a high level,” Thibodeau told NBC Sports Boston. “They have great leadership at that end of the floor with Al (Horford), (Marcus) Smart and Aron Baynes. They have all the pieces that are necessary. They have great talent, great coaching, management, ownership, everything they need is here… they’re going to be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.”
That’s the goal of course, even if their regular-season play suggests otherwise.
After spending the early stages of this season ranked among the top two or three teams in the league defensively, the Celtics are now sixth in the league with a defensive rating of 105.1.
But since the All-Star break, Boston’s defense has taken a major nosedive to rank 20th overall with a 109.4 defensive rating.
Even though Boston’s defense is trending in the wrong direction, Thibodeau wasn’t in town offering up any kind of defensive elixir to what ailed the Celtics.
Quite the opposite of that, actually.
Thibodeau’s time in Boston was about him picking up tips for himself going forward, as much if not more than anything else.
“You always look to see if there’s something you like that you can add to what you’re doing,” Thibodeau said. “Is there a way to do something better? We always pick each other’s brains to see what we can add. So, this is a great place to do it. There’s a number of great coaches on this staff besides Brad, who is a great coach."
Thibodeau added, “Like I said, we’re always looking at what everybody’s doing. You’re always trying to learn and grow.”
And for Thibodeau, that growth will likely include a return at some point to coaching.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Just whatever your circumstances are you want to make the best of those. For me now it’s traveling around, relaxing, enjoying the time off, recharging and see what happens down the road.”
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