Amid all the talk about Maggette and Posey and Andersen and all the other free agents, there hasn't been a lot of mention of some other very important free agents, the Celtics assistant coaches. All 4 of Doc's assistants' contracts expired on July 1, making them all free agents.
Doc has one more season on his contract and Danny has begun negotiations to give Doc an extension. More important, though, should be signing their assistants to new contracts before another team lures them away.
Tom Thibodeau is the architect of the Celtics' defense which was the main reason that they won the championship. This was Thibodeau's 18th season in the league and every team he has been on has been a defensive force. Before coming to the Celtics, Thibodeau was 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 (1996-2003). In 2000-01, the Knicks set an NBA record by holding opponents to fewer than 100 points in 33 consecutive games.
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 in the two seasons he coached them.
When Thibodeau signed with the Celtics last season, he requested a one year contract. That may have been because he had head coaching aspirations or because he wanted his contract to match the contracts of the other assistants. His name was mentioned for just about every head coaching position that opened up this off season, but teams didn't want to wait until after the Finals to fill their openings and each position was filled before the finals were over. It doesn't seem likely that any other head coaching jobs will open up at this point, but teams that have faced the Celtics defense over the past season may try to lure him away from the Celtics with a big contract as an assistant. The Celtics need to make re-signing Tom Thibodeau a priority. It was Thibodeau's defense that made the Celtics such a force this past season and for the Celtics to repeat, they need to have Thibodeau return with his defensive schemes and his tireless work ethic in scouting the opponents.
Clifford Ray is one of the best big man coaches in the NBA. He also has been in demand by teams with young big men needing to develop. When you watch Dwight Howard play and dominate on the boards, think Clifford Ray. Dwight and his dad credit Clifford Ray with his development when he was with the Magic. When you watch classic Celtics games from the 80's and see Parish dominate in the middle, think Clifford Ray. Parish credited Clifford Ray with helping him to develop his game when they were teammates on Golden State. He has succeeded everywhere he has been and the emergence of Kendrick Perkins as a defensive force in the middle is largely due to his work with Clifford Ray over the past few seasons.
As an assistant coach who specializes in teaching big men, Ray has had wonderful results wherever he has worked. If you follow his career, teams where he has been an assistant have been among the league's best in rebounding, in spite of being among the worst before he arrived. That's a huge fact since as the old adage goes "offense sells tickets, defense wins games and rebounding wins championships. He has molded a long list of players including P.J. Brown, Adonal Foyle, Roy Tarpley, Erick Dampier, and Nazr Mohammed. In his first year as a part-time coach in Dallas, the Mavericks led the league in rebounding. When Ray was an assistant in New Jersey in 1995-96, the Nets led the league in rebounding. In Ray's two years at Golden State (2000-01 and '01-02), the Warriors ranked first and second in rebounding. In Cleveland two years ago, Ray had the Cavs up to second in the league in rebounding. The Magic, which ranked 23rd in rebounding the season before Ray arrived, ranked second the following year. The Celtics need to re-sign Clifford Ray, especially with young bigs still needing development on the roster.
Kevin Eastman and Armond Hill are both very good coaches and Hill was also mentioned for several of the coaching openings this offseason. Eastman is a very good shooting coach and has worked with Rondo over the past year to improve his shot. Both coaches worked with the young prospects that Danny brought in and developed them into players that were in demand enough to bring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to the Celtics. Danny needs to re-sign these guys as we now have another crop of young players who need developed. Just as important as signing Posey and the other free agents, the Celtics need to do what it takes to get their assistant coaches back again also, especially Tom Thibodeau and Clifford Ray.