Back to Boston

Frank soaked up valuable lessons in his year under Rivers with Celtics
It might not tug at Lawrence Frank’s heartstrings quite like the two trips the Pistons take to New Jersey a week apart in early February will, but their journey to Boston tonight won’t be just another game for him, either.

Frank had plenty of options to jump back into coaching after New Jersey, where Frank spent 10 years on staff as either an assistant or head coach, fired him 16 games into the 2009-10 season. But he chose the job Doc Rivers offered to be his No. 1 assistant with complete authority to run the defense for an NBA title contender that hung its hat on defense.

It was the opportunity to work under Rivers and to coach the multitude of future Hall of Famers on Boston’s roster that appealed to Frank.

“Doc is phenomenal,” Frank said. “I had a great experience. Doc is an elite coach, in all sports, gets it on every level. Plus the opportunity to work with those players. There’s a reason why they’re one of the top teams in the league. Their best players set the tone of how they work. They model the cultureof what Doc wants. So it was a joy. I learned a lot.”

Among the things he learned: The importance of being the same coach every day, teaching the same things every day, no matter how small the detail, no matter how large the profile of the players being coached.

“If you went to a Boston practice the first day or the last day, it would be the same practice,” he said. “It’s that methodical practice. And the best players set the tone. They work at it every day. I mean, there’s no off days. If you’re on that green team – which is the starting team – and you’re the sixth guy on that green team, you’re not getting a rep in practice.

“And you’re talking about 36, 35, 34 (the ages of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, respectively) and Rajon (Rondo). Yet they are committed to it. You have to invest in this game. The league is too hard. I learned a lot both from Doc – we had a great assistant coaching staff – and also the players.”

Boston’s formula represents a coach’s ideal: Its best players are its hardest workers. Nobody spends more time in the gym than Allen, whose hours of shooting practice are legendary. Garnett has been renowned for his fierce practice habits since his early days in Minnesota, while Pierce is regarded even by the old Celtics legends as worthy of breathing the same rarefied air as Russell, Cousy, Havlicek and crew. Together, they have competed in a whopping 33 playoff games. The entire Pistons’ roster has competed in four – all of them by Ben Wallace.

Yet those great Boston players will take a 0-3 record and, Frank knows from experience, a burning desire to break into the win column into Friday’s home opener after road losses at New York, New Orleans and Miami to open the season. Pierce has been out with a foot injury, but Frank expects to see him in uniform when the 0-2 Pistons take the parquet floor at the TD Garden.

“They’re fine,” Frank said. “They understand. They’re in a complete opposition direction. They’re a veteran team trying to assimilate some new parts. Doc has a great feel for how to pace the group, because they know they’re going to be there at the end. The key for them is to be healthy come playoff time. We’ll get their best effort, but regardless of who we play we have to go in expecting to do everything we can to win the game. On any given night in this league, anything can happen.”