Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has never let his assistants or staff members talk to the media. Not before the games, not after them, not even on the practice floor. Doc's the lone spokesman for the Celtics' staff — he speaks for his team, and he's held accountable for his words. But at Celtics practice on Monday, the usual head honcho wasn't able to talk at all, so he let an assistant be the voice of the ballclub instead.
Rivers stayed home Monday, recovering from minor throat surgery. In his place, assistant coach Lawrence Frank ran the day's practice session and addressed the media afterward.
For most coaches, a day like Monday would be a chance to introduce oneself to Celtic nation. Frank had a rare chance to show the world what he was all about. Selflessly, he declined.
"No," he insisted. "I don't want to talk about me. Let's talk about the team. I don't want to talk about myself. Like I've said, I'm just here and Doc's put together a plan for us. As a staff, we executed the plan as a team.
"It's never been about me as a head coach, and it's certainly not about me as an assistant. We have a great staff. We have guys that have been here and won championship rings. Each of us just wants to do our part and do it together. We did this thing collectively. I didn't necessarily 'run' practice — we did it all collectively."
Frank comes to the Celtics by way of the New Jersey Nets, whom he coached from January 2004 to the beginning of last season. He was fired after last year's squad began the season 0-16.
He began his basketball journey at Indiana in the early 1990s, working as a student manager under Bobby Knight. He's worked as an assistant coach both at the college level (at Marquette and Tennessee) and in the NBA (on the Memphis Grizzlies). He's now 40 years old and working as an assistant under Doc on the Celtics. It's probably the best team he's ever coached.
"To me, it's been a very easy adjustment," he said. "I've really enjoyed being here — the culture, the environment. Obviously with this team, and with Doc, you can't have a better guy to work for."
Frank and Rivers know each other well — they coached against each other for years as Atlantic Division rivals. Frank has talked at length about the mutual admiration between the two coaches, and now the two are united.
"I've known him since I've been in the NBA," Frank said of Rivers. "We've always had mutual respect for each other. I was very grateful for the opportunity to join this franchise. We all just do our part, and we follow Doc's lead. That's what we're here for — for everyone to contribute and do this together."
In just a few short weeks, Frank has ingratiated himself with the Celtics' close-knit group of coaches. Alongside Armond Hill, Kevin Eastman, Mike Longabardi, Tyronn Lue and others, the Celtics' newest assistant has made himself right at home within the Celtics' network.
"This has been an ideal situation," he said. "Look at the franchise. Look at the team. Look at the head coach. It's totally a situation where as an assistant coach, and I speak for all of us, we just do our jobs. We don't have to worry any of the other stuff that goes on in the league. Especially when you have a group that's so committed to winning a championship, this is a very rare environment."
Frank may not be eager to talk about himself, but his players are doing plenty of the talking for him.
"He's a great coach," said Shaquille O'Neal. "It's good that he finally got to the team he wanted."
While Frank is replacing Tom Thibodeau, who was beloved in Boston for his dedication and his defensive tactics, there's no doubt that the new guy has his strengths, too.
"He's a little more normal," Paul Pierce said of Frank. "I'm not taking anything away from Thibs. Thibs is one of the greatest assistant coaches I've ever played for. He helped me get better even 10 years into the game, and you don't really see that a lot. But Coach Frank, he's a little looser, a little more laid back. He's going to joke with you a little bit more. Then at the end of the day, he's going to get his work done, and our players are going to respect him."
At least for the next day or two, they have to. Then Doc gets back, and Frank will quietly ease back into the background, back into the role of underappreciated assistant coach.
It seems like he's fine with that.
"Sorry to bore you," Frank told the media Monday. "I apologize. Hopefully we'll get Doc back here tomorrow."
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