(WSCR) – Tom Thibodeau was the associate head coach of the Boston Celtics before he became head coach for the Bulls. After losing to the Knicks Thursday, the Bulls and Celtics will renew their rivalry in Boston.


STATS Senior Writer

(AP) — Tom Thibodeau made quite an impact in his time as associate head coach of the Boston Celtics, forging a close relationship with Kevin Garnett along the way. It’s why he landed his first head coaching job with the Chicago Bulls.

Thibodeau returns to Boston to face his former team for the first time when the Bulls and Celtics renew a rivalry that blossomed in the 2009 playoffs.

In Thibodeau’s three seasons working under coach Doc Rivers, Boston (4-1) twice led the league in field-goal percentage defense and went to the NBA finals twice. Thibodeau earned a reputation as one of the top defensive coaches, and was hired by the Bulls (2-2) in the offseason as their 18th coach.

Garnett earned his lone defensive player of the year award in 2007-08 as Boston won its record 17th championship.

“Thibs brings a passion for defense, I think,” Garnett said. “When you think of Tom Thibodeau and what’s his strengths, he’s obviously a defense guy. He watches an uncountable amount of film. He’s a worker. He’s a guy that loves his job. He does it with passion.”

Garnett has been in the news for the wrong reason lately after Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva posted on his Twitter account that Garnett called him a “cancer patient” during the Celtics’ 109-86 win Tuesday.

The controversy may have been a reason why Garnett was limited to 13 points and eight rebounds in Wednesday’s 105-102 overtime win over Milwaukee. He was whistled for a technical foul for the second straight night.

“I’m a passionate player, man,” Garnett said. “With all these rules, I am trying my best to get out of situations. I am definitely trying not to invite them. But the game is passionate. And I play with a lot of energy for the 15 going on 16 years I’ve played this way.”

Garnett is also being forced to log more minutes since the Celtics are short-handed in their frontcourt. Shaquille O’Neal will likely miss his third straight game with a bruised right knee while Kendrick Perkins is out until January with a knee injury.

Thibodeau will try to employ a defense that will slow down Paul Pierce, who scored 28 points Wednesday to surpass 20,000 for his career.

“That was an emotional moment for me. It was tough for me to swallow at that point,” Pierce said. “You don’t see that often that a player accomplishes the feat with one team.”

This game also marks the renewal of the rivalry between point guards Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose. Their matchup was the focal point of a memorable first-round series two seasons ago and won by the Celtics in seven games.

Both are off to strong starts in 2010-11. Rondo is leading the NBA with 16.4 assists per game while Rose is averaging 26.8 points to lead the Eastern Conference.

Thibodeau appeared to anger Bulls fans Thursday in a 120-112 home loss to New York. Rose had 24 points and 14 assists, but sat out the final 9:31 as the fans chanted “We want Rose!”

“The second unit I thought fought hard to close it, and I wanted to see what they could get out of it,” Thibodeau said.

Boston and Chicago split four meetings last season.

Updated November 5, 2010

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