|Mike Longabardi is Celtics new defensive coordinator||09.19.11 at 12:21 pm ET|
WESTON — For the last four years the Celtics have gathered for a charity golf tournament to raise money for their Shamrock Foundation. Traditionally, it’s been a kickoff of sorts as the team gets ready to head to training camp. This year, of course, is different.
With the NBA lockout raging, there were no current players at this year’s event and Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers could only deflect questions about the upcoming season. There was one bit of confirmation about the makeup of Rivers’ coaching staff, as Rivers said recently-promoted assistant coach Mike Longabardi will be primarily focused on the defensive side of the ball.
The role of defensive coordinator, for lack of a better term, has been ably filled in the past by Tom Thibodeau, who was named Coach of the Year in his first season with the Bulls, and by Lawrence Frank, who left to take over the head coaching job with the Pistons.
“Defensively, Longo will be the leader but everyone will have the same input that they had before,” Rivers said. “Kevin Eastman was really important for Lawrence and Thibs. I think that role won’t change much at all.”
Longabardi, who has been with the team since Thibodeau arrived in 2007, has big shoes to fill. Over the last four seasons, the Celtics have ranked in the top five in points allowed per 100 possessions and have generally been regarded as one of the NBA’s top defensive units. It’s a renaissance that began with the hiring of Thibodeau, as well as the addition of Kevin Garnett, one of the top defensive players the league has ever seen.
“I kept looking for the right one,” Rivers said. “Thibs for me was that guy. He loved doing it. That’s what he wanted to do and it really allowed you to coach the team, so it’s really important.”
The 38-year-old Longabardi has worked up the classic’s assistant coach ladder with stops at small schools including Pfeiffer University, Adelphi University, Lafayette College and Towson University before joining the Rockets as an assistant coach/video coordinator.
While he wasn’t as visible, Longabardi was one of a handful of invaluable behind the scenes coaches. (Darren Ermen was also in that category until he left for an assistant job with Golden State). No one knows when the season may start, but Rivers sounds confident that his team will continue their defensive success. “We pretty much know who we are,” Rivers said. “We’re not going to change our identity defensively and stuff like that.”
NOTES: If there was a benefit to the lockout, it allowed Rivers to travel with his son Austin and the Duke University basketball team as they played in China and Dubai. “China was awesome,” Rivers said. “It was a neat trip. China and Dubai. It was a great trip. I got to watch my son play and got to do a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have done. I really enjoyed it.”
Per NBA rules, Ainge wouldn’t comment on any question regarding the league, European players or the D-League, but he did say the summer allowed his staff time to take a step back and look at the league with fresh eyes. Ainge said that Ryan McDonough is in Lithuania for EuroBasket and the front office has watched the games.
“It gives us some time to step back and really reevaluate the entire league and European players, anticipate the draft,” Ainge said. “We’ve been doing all the little things and getting organized.”