Celtics assistant Longabardi takes defensive lapses personally


WALTHAMThe Boston Celtics had an open practice on Tuesday, offering a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work that it takes to be among the top defensive teams annually.

Defense has always been a priority to C's coach Doc Rivers, which is why the job of coaching the team defensively is always left to one man.

The past couple of years that has been Mike Longabardi who is following in the footsteps of former Celtics defensive czars Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls head coach) and Lawrence Frank (Detroit Pistons head coach).

Although this is Longabardi's second season as the Celtics assistant in charge of defense, he has been with the franchise as an assistant coach since 2007.

His experience coupled with his strong on defensive principles, made him a natural choice to slide into the defensive coordinator role for the Celtics when it became open after Frank took the head coaching job in Detroit.

"He's been in the office next to mine, and he communicates it well," Rivers said of Longabardi. "I just want him to be focused on that. That's what I do."

And it is a formula that has worked well for the Celtics in recent years.

Boston has been among the top five scoring defenses each of the past five seasons, which includes them giving up a league-low 91.1 points per game during the 2010-2011 season.

But the success of the past does not guarantee this season will be more of the same. It certainly hasn't been the case thus far, with the Celtics giving up 101.7 points per game after three games which ranks 21st in the NBA in scoring defense.

All of the Celtics were upset following the team's struggles at limiting opponents scoring.

But Rivers acknowledged that Longabardi was extremely hard on himself with the team's early struggles defensively.

"Whoever I make the defensive guy, that's his job," Rivers said. "And I want him to take it personal when teams score, and he does. The first two games, he wanted to jump off the bridge somewhere."

But in the Celtics' 89-86 win at Washington on Saturday, few were as excited afterwards than Longabardo as the Celtics pulled out the victory by keeping the Wizards scoreless during the final 2:56 of play.

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