Sept. 30, 2008 -- It was a short summer for Celtics coach Doc Rivers. But obviously, that's better than the alternative.

Rivers, maligned by many during the Celtics' 24-58 debacle two seasons ago, changed a lot of minds by guiding his team to the 17th title in franchise history last June. It didn't matter that he wasn't the Coach of the Year, because he was the Coach of the Finals.

Now, he's ready to do it again. The Celtics, looking to be the first NBA team to defend their title since 2002, begin training camp Tuesday in Newport, R.I. Two weeks earlier, Rivers spoke with NBA.com about the challenge ahead.

NBA.com: Obviously, one of the keys to winning last season was the collective hunger of your team. Had you ever seen a group that wanted it more?
Doc Rivers: I think they do. A lot of teams have been able to put a bunch of veterans together and then go after it.

The difference was that our guys really bought in to what we were doing and they understood that everybody wants to win, but if you really want to win, you're going to have to sacrifice some things and you may not be able to do it in your normal comfort zone. And I think they were willing to do that.

I thought we had a whole club of guys like that, even our young guys got to the point where they felt like they couldn't let the older guys down.

I thought we did have a special group in that fact that they had a single-minded goal. One of the things I told them early was that no one thought they could do it in the first year. And I told them that there was no guarantee that there would be a second year. So, it had to be the first year. And I thought that it was very important for our team to understand that.

NBA.com: So, now you do have a second year, and the challenge is to recreate that feeling.
Rivers: I'm not going to try to recreate that, because that was trying to do something for the first time. The challenge will be us against us. Can we push ourselves now?

Every night, teams are gonna attack us, and I thought we had a little dose of that last year, which was good. We felt that we were anointed during the year because of the way we started and because of the big three. And I thought people attacked us. And I think this year, they're going to do it even more. So, it's a different challenge for us. And I think every year's a different year.

NBA.com: Can Tony Allen step up and fill James Posey's role with this team?
Rivers: Tony is gonna settle into his own role and he's gonna fill that role that we need him to fill. But he's not going to be Posey and I don't think he wants to be.

Tony's a different player than James, and we're gonna try to get the best out of that to help our team. And that will make it a little different at times. But I think that Tony's gonna have a special year this year. I really believe that. I thought last year, he spent the year trying to get healthy, trying to believe that he was healthy.

This year, he's just gonna be able to play basketball. So, we're gonna miss what Posey gave us, but what Tony can give us will help us.

NBA.com: Other than the absence of Posey, will there be any differences in your team this season?
Rivers: I think Kevin [Garnett] will have a better year because he'll be more acclimated to what we're trying to do. And I think Ray [Allen] will have a better year. Probably of the three, he will probably improve the most, because I thought he had the most difficult adjustment. I think he understands how we play now, and we understand him. So, I think he'll be better.

But I think our young guys, too, will have to pitch in more. Glen Davis, Leon Powe, Rajon Rondo and [Kendrick Perkins]. I think they all will be better after what they went through last year.

NBA.com: After struggling through most of the Finals, Rondo played the game of his life in Game 6. Is that the type of player he can be on a consistent basis?
Rivers: Obviously, I decided on Rondo and I stuck with him. There was a lot of pressure during the playoffs about sitting him because he was struggling. I believed that he got us there and that he was gonna get us over.

He's capable of that. I don't know if he's capable of that every night yet, but I think he will be some day. We can't forget how young he is.

He's a special talent and he's just gonna keep improving. He's gonna get more confident in his shot. And the more confident he gets in his shot and the more he can knock down that in-between game, the better he'll get as a player.

NBA.com: Perkins seemed to complement Kevin down low. How important was he last season?
Rivers: I was so proud of Perk last year, because as the year went on, I thought he got more and more comfortable with who he was. And I really think it takes years for young guys to figure out who they are. And secondly, just to accept that, accept his role and realize that he could be really good at that role. And I thought he really embraced his role as the year went on. And as he embraced his role and started getting better at it, I thought he became more and more important to our basketball team. And I think he saw that.

NBA.com: Is bringing in Darius Miles a low-risk, high-reward move?
Rivers: He knows how to play the game and he could do a lot of different things for us. The risk there is small, but it's a good risk. I think we're in the position to take a couple of risks and if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. But if it does work out, it really helps us, especially after losing Posey. I look at Darius' length, and he can really help us defensively.

NBA.com: And what did you see in Patrick O'Bryant that made you want to bring him in?
Rivers: He doesn't have the experience. The bottom line is that if he stayed in college, he'd be a rookie this year. And so, as far as I'm concerned, it's still his rookie year. He's still young even though he's been in the league a couple of years. We're in no hurry with him. I'm a big believer in length, and that's what we lost with P.J. Brown.

We're hoping that O'Bryant can help us by the end of the year. There's no pressure on him to play right away. We can't forget that he's a high draft pick. People obviously believed that he can play, and now we want to find out if he can.

NBA.com: Are the Celtics now the latest example of what can happen when you put defense first?
Rivers: I don't know if we're an example or not. Honestly, we were just trying to win. I thought we won though, because we were a team. I thought, overall, not just on defense, but offensively, we shared the ball. If there's any example set, that's the one I'd like to see set. You can't win without being a team. I think San Antonio started it. They've been a great defensive team, but they've also been a very unselfish offensive team. Clearly, when you look at what we did this year and you look at what the Olympic team did, they played together and played great defense, you gotta bring both sides of the floor. That's my belief. There's a lot of ways to skin a cat, and that's been proven.