Celtics assistant Thibodeau in high demand

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau is a hot commodity these days, and not just because of the big role he is playing in the Eastern Conference champions' NBA Finals showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thibodeau reportedly has turned down an offer to coach the New Orleans Hornets, but is still talking to the Chicago Bulls, whose officials have flown to Los Angeles to talk to him.

The New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Clippers also are believed to have expressed some interest in the defensive-minded assistant.

"He eats, sleeps, and breathes defense," Celtics center Kendrick Perkins told reporters.

His attention to detail is so thorough players often must remind him they are just saying hello, rather than awaiting a lengthy discussion on some phase of the game, Boston's Paul Pierce said.

In 17 previous NBA seasons, Thibodeau's teams have finished in the top 10 in team defense 14 times. The New York Knicks, with him handling the defense, held 33 consecutive opponents under 100 points in the 2000-01 season

Thibodeau began his NBA coaching career in Minnesota with the late Bill Musselman in 1989 and has since worked as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, the Knicks, Houston Rockets and the Celtics.

"He is an expert in the areas of game preparation and player development," said former Knicks coach Van Gundy under whom Thibodeau coached for five years in New York.

"I feel that he's one of the finest coaches in the NBA today."

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina. Editing by Steve Ginsburg; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)