Doc Deserves Credit for the Defense

As Doc Rivers looked to fill out his coaching staff for this season, he put two names at the top of his wish list. One was Larry Brown. The other was Tom Thibodeau. One would get the call if Rivers began 2007-08 with the same crew of callow fellows he finished 2006-07 with. The other would get the call if, by some good fortune, the 2007-08 Celtics would be a team of All-Star veterans. Once the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett, Rivers knew whom he wanted.

--Boston Globe 11/1/08

Conventional wisdom has it that the Celtics won the 2008 NBA title because of a defense architected by Assistant Coach Tom Thibodeau and quarterbacked by Kevin Garnett, Defensive Player of the Year.

There is a lot of truth in this thinking.

However, as the above snippet reminds us, the defense-oriented roots of the 2008 championship started at the top.

The first thing Doc Rivers did after acquiring Kevin Garnett was call a meeting with the Big Three to lay down the law.

"Offense gets headlines but defense wins championships. Period. You want to win a championship, you need to make a commitment to defense.”

Doc then got his wish when the Wizards allowed Thibodeau out of the contract he had just signed. Next he turned his attention to shoring up the bench. When word got out that James Posey was about to sign with New Jersey, Doc called Danny immediately.

“Give me his number. I need to talk with him before he makes a mistake.”

Doc then added the final piece to the puzzle with the signing of PJ Brown, another tough, defense-minded veteran that had Doc salivating.

But the job wasn’t done.

Regular season’s end was just the beginning.

When the going got tough on the road during the playoffs for the Celtics, Doc’s mantra usually had a familiar ring to it.

“You’ve got to get stops. Forget about offense. You’ve got to get stops first. You get stops, and everything else will follow.”

As I noted way back in November, Doc has a little bit of General Patton in him. He’s a big picture guy who sees himself primarily as a motivator. His pre-game talks and time-outs are short and to the point. He explains what's going wrong in simple terms, and offers a solution in simple terms.

The players then have to go back out on the court and perform what they learned in practice.

Doc will probably never be fully appreciated, but at least he'll get more love now than before June 17th.

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