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Getting to Know the Celtics Assistants Part 4

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Yao [Yao takes a break after the practice with the Chinese National Team in Beijing. Accompanied by trainer Anthony Falsone and Rockets assistant coach Tom Thibodeau.]

Maybe Danny and Doc are serious about the defense this season. Danny has hired Tom Thibodeau as an assistant to replace Tony Brown who left over a contract dispute and is now in Milwaukee. Tony Brown had been in charge of the Celtics defense before his departure and now it will fall to Tom Thibodeau to coach the defense of the team

A coach for 17 seasons, Thibodeau has been an assistant coach with Houston, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Seattle and Minnesota. During that time, Thibodeau's teams have finished among the top 10 in fewest points allowed 14 times. Perhaps his most notable stint was as an assistant with New York from 1996 to 2003. In  the 2000-01 season, the Knicks set an NBA record by holding opponents to fewer than 100 points in 33 consecutive games. In his first year in Houston, Thibodeau helped the Rockets set franchise records in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense.

Thibodeau’s coaching career began in 1981 as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Salem State College. After three years as an assistant, he became head coach in 1984. The following season, Thibodeau became an assistant coach at Harvard. He coached at Harvard for four years before leaving for the NBA.

More after the jump.

Thibodeau entered the NBA in 1989 as an assistant coach with the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves under the late Bill Musselman. After two seasons with the Timberwolves, he joined the Seattle SuperSonics in 1991 as an advance scout. The following year, Thibodeau moved to San Antonio, where he worked with Jerry Tarkanian and John Lucas as a Spurs assistant coach for two seasons. He left San Antonio to become an assistant coach under Lucas with the Philadelphia 76ers. Thibodeau stayed in Philadelphia two seasons before joining the Knicks. With the Knicks, Thibodeau worked with Jeff Van Gundy for five years and Don Chaney for two seasons. He has coached in 87 career NBA playoff games, including New York’s appearance in the 1999 NBA Finals.

During his four seasons with Houston, the Rockets advanced to the postseason in three of those seasons and won 50 games in two seasons. Thibodeau guided the Rockets to a top five ranking in the NBA in both opponents’ scoring defense and field goal percentage in each of the past four seasons. Thibodeau also led the Rockets’ summer league teams to a 10-0 record over the past two seasons. In 2005-06, he worked with All-Star Center Yao Ming as he became the first Rockets player to average 20 points and 10 rebounds in a season since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995-96. Thibodeau has gone to China the past two summers to help Yao work on his individual skills. Yao speaks often of Thibodeau's role in his breakthrough play after coming back from the toe surgery last season. A look at tape of Yao from three seasons ago, before Thibodeau began working with him, and a tape of him from this season would be compelling evidence of Thibodeau's effectiveness.  The Herald mentioned that Perk was just coming off a draining workout with Tom Thibodeau when they interviewed him.  Between Clifford Ray and Thibodeau, we certainly can expect big things from our center this season. 

A native of New Britain, Connecticut, Thibodeau graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and a master’s in counseling from Salem State College. He lettered in four seasons at Salem State. He was inducted into the New Britain, CT Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

Before taking the Celtics job, Thibodeau interviewed for several head coaching jobs and agreed with Washington to be an assistant for the Wizards. He worked several days with the Wizards and then had a change of heart and didn't sign the contract. Reports are that he was promised the head assistant position and then wasn't given it and that is why he backed away from working with the Wizards. The Celtics had shown interest in him and it is reported that the Celtics also offered him a deal before he agreed to the Wizards job. He requested a one year contract according to the Herald and that may be because he is considered to be head coaching material and he may want to see what is out there next season. Or, it may be because each of Doc's assistants have a 1 year contract and he didn't want to one-up them.

This was a good hire for the Celtics and although Doc has said that he is going to coach the defense this season and leave the offense to his assistants, I think he would do well to let Thibodeau take the lead with the defense since he has been successful in the past with his defensive schemes.  Yao Ming also shows that he has been successful in working with individual players.   We can look forward to the fruits of his labor this next season as his presence may be a key to winning a championship since it is defense that wins in the playoffs, especially.