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NBA Finals notebook

A promoter of Thibodeau

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / June 12, 2009
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ORLANDO, Fla. - Tom Thibodeau's old boss believes the best is yet to come for the Celtics assistant coach.

Thibodeau will be back with the Celtics next season, having taken his name out of the running for Sacramento's head coach opening Tuesday. The Kings reached an agreement in principle with ex-Celtic Paul Westphal to be their head coach. Thibodeau was also in the running for the Sixers job before they hired Eddie Jordan.

Thibodeau worked under Jeff Van Gundy in Houston and New York before coming to Boston, and while Van Gundy believes Thibodeau will be a fine head coach someday, he also views his job in Boston as one of the top coaching positions in the league.

"He's got a great job in Boston with a great organization with an ownership, general manager, and head coach that believe in him," said Van Gundy, who is working as an analyst for ABC during the NBA Finals. "Those jobs are difficult to get. To me, he has one of the top 10 coaching jobs in all of basketball, head coach or assistant coach.

"They have a great team, they have a chance to win championships, and he's highly valued. When you've got that, you've got a great, great job."

For Thibodeau, next year will be his third with the Celtics, his 18th in the NBA. Van Gundy entered the NBA as an assistant with the Knicks in the summer of 1989 and was an assistant for 6 1/2 years before getting his first head coaching opportunity when Don Nelson stepped down in March 1996. Van Gundy was named interim coach, then named the permanent coach the next season.

Van Gundy believes it's just a matter of time before a team gives Thibodeau an opportunity.

"I have no doubts, when Tom gets his chance to have one team, one GM, or one owner to believe in him, he's going to hit the ball out of the park," Van Gundy said. "I think he has every component you would need. He has the X's-and-O's ability, the communication skills, leadership skills, and an even-keeled demeanor. He has great passion, but he is under control.

"He studies everything very thoroughly and he was very humbled to be a part of that process both in Philadelphia and Sacramento. And he thought very highly of both processes and both situations. It was good for him."

Ruling clash
There has been a lot of controversy about the fact that Americans must play at least one year of college basketball before entering the NBA draft. Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy begged to differ on the rule prior to Game 4 of the Finals last night. Jackson believes it should be two years or age 20, while Van Gundy called the rule a "sham."

"I hope they make it two and done in the future, the near future," Jackson said. "I think the NCAA would be very happy if we did two, promote that, because it's just extenuated the rules being abrogated by colleges."

Van Gundy said, "I don't like the one and done. First of all, I don't really understand how we get away with that as a league, that we tell a guy out of high school he can't come and play in our league. The guys should have the right to make a living and come into our league.

"And what I really don't like is the way the system is set up. To me - and I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous - but kids should be going to college if at least part of what they want to do is get an education."

Learning experience
There were high hopes for Gonzaga star forward Adam Morrison when the Bobcats selected him with the third overall pick in the 2006 draft, but they have yet to come to fruition.

He showed promise in his first season, averaging 11.8 points per game, but missed 2007-08 because of knee surgery, and struggled to find a place in the playing rotation this season. After averaging 4.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in 44 games (five starts) with Charlotte, Morrison and guard Shannon Brown were dealt to the Lakers Feb. 7 for forward Vladimir Radmanovic.

"My rookie year, I played good at the start of the season but didn't finish off the way I wanted to," said Morrison, who makes $4.2 million this season and $5.2 million next. "Then I had a setback; everyone knows about my knee injury. I just didn't fit in, in Charlotte this year.

"I'm lucky that they brought me over here to try to help me out and see what happens this summer. It's great to be a part of this organization. This is my second full season, and hopefully, God willing, I have a better career."

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