NEWBERRY - For the second time in the last seven seasons, Newberry College is represented in the NBA Finals, as Mike Longabardi is on the coaching staff for the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Longabardi started his college career in two seasons at Newberry in Tom Quinn's second stint as head coach in the early 1990s. He would transfer to Frostburg (Md.) State to finish career, but his ties to Newberry would come full circle when Dave Davis was named head coach. Longabardi's first coaching job came in the 1996-97 season when he was an assistant coach on Davis' first staff at Pfeiffer.
Longabardi rose through the college ranks before breaking into coaching the pros. He was hired in Cleveland this January after spending the last two-plus seasons as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns. Prior to that, he spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics under Doc Rivers, four of which with current Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue. While with the Celtics, he helped them reach three Eastern Conference Finals and two NBA Finals, including winning the 2008 NBA title. Before joining the Celtics, he was an assistant coach for the Houston Rockets under Jeff Van Gundy.
From a Friday article on CBSSports.com written by Ken Berger: "Teams make in-season acquisitions who pay dividends in the playoffs all the time. But it's rare that a team has a chance to add a coach who can make as much of an impact as defensive assistant Mike Longabardi has throughout this playoff run for Cleveland. Longabardi was unceremoniously fired amid chaos in Phoenix and scooped up in an instant by Lue to add a steady hand to the defensive side of the ball.
"Longabardi was groomed in Boston by Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau, and on Thursday night, he did what everyone thought was impossible: He completely shut down Curry and Thompson, holding them to 20 points -- with six of those coming on late 3-pointers during garbage time."
Longabardi and the Cavaliers trail Golden State in the Finals, 1-0, and return to the court at 8 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.