All About Celtics Interim Head Coach Joe Mazzulla

Boston Celtics new Head Coach Joe Mazzulla will look to lead a talented group of young players (via Wikipedia under Creative Commons License


Boston Celtics new Head Coach Joe Mazzulla will look to lead a talented group of young players (via Wikipedia under Creative Commons License

Zachary LeBlanc, Writer

It was quite the eventful off-season for the Boston Celtics. To begin free agency, the Celtics acquired 6’5” point guard, Malcolm Brogdon, in a trade with the Indiana Pacers. Then, Danillo Gallinari and the Celtics inked a 2-year contract to bring the 6’10” forward to Boston.

It seemed as though the stars were aligning for the Boston Celtics to make a return to the NBA finals once again. However, as September hit, the Celtics would receive a flurry of bad news prior to their Sept. 24th start to training camp.

Gallinari would find himself sidelined for the whole season after suffering a torn ACL while playing for his home country, Italy, in the FIBA World Cup. Just weeks later, fans would once again receive bad news: Celtics Center Robert Williams would miss the first 8-12 weeks of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in his left knee, the same knee he tore his meniscus in last March. With two huge losses hanging over the Celtics’ heads, to add more insult to injury, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the Celtics would be suspending head coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-2023 season. After a promising trip to the finals, key additions in the offseason, and a returning young cast, the Celtics hit a rough spot.

Interim head coach Joe Mazzulla will take Udoka’s spot, receiving high praise from his players. Grant Williams said Mazzulla is, “the most capable person in our organization to take on that role, to fill that void or gap.”

Meanwhile, 2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart gave insight into Mazzulla’s strong relationships with players. “He knows and understands us as players. He’s built relationships with us. We love Joe. We’re excited to be able to work with him and this opportunity that he has.”

Mazzulla was born in Johnston, Rhode Island, just 57 miles south of Boston. His father, Dan, played basketball at Bryant University and went undrafted in the 1980 NBA draft. Joe Mazzulla spent his college days at the University of West Virginia, helping the Mountaineers reach the Final Four in the NCAA tournament. Mazzulla averaged 5 points and 3 assists per game in his college career.

After going undrafted in 2011, Mazzulla shifted his focus to coaching, bouncing around from Glenville State University, Fairmount State University, and Boston’s G League affiliate Maine Red Claws. In 2019, Mazzulla was hired as an assistant head coach for the Celtics, spending time under Brad Stevens and Udoka. 

Prior to Mazzulla’s immediate success out of college, he faced multiple legal issues during his time at West Virginia. He was charged with underage drinking in 2008 and domestic battery in 2009. Mazzulla struggled with depression according to his father, and the Mazzulla family had worked together to get Joe the treatment and support he needed. During Celtics Media Day, Mazzulla reflected on how these incidents shaped him today, saying “I’ve had to use the situations I put myself in as a younger man, I’ve had to use them to learn from and to become a better person.”

Former Celtics Head Coach and current General Manager Brad Stevens also shared his trust in Joe Mazzulla, commenting on Mazzulla’s ability to be not only a leader, but to bring the locker room together. “I will tell you this; I believe strongly in Joe’s substance as a person. He has been very open about how those moments impacted him in every which way. You can see it in the way he carries himself,” said Stevens. “He’s been working with us for three years, and you’ve probably seen articles from that time, and that I saw three years ago when I hired him.” Without a doubt, Brad Stevens has Mazzulla’s back.

It is quite evident that the players, coaches, and organization have their trust in Mazzulla. Even former Celtics point guard, Kemba Walker, boasted about Mazzulla’s ability to coach, saying Mazzulla is a “special guy” and that Boston now has “a great coach.”

Only time will tell how Joe Mazzulla’s tenure with the Celtics goes. However, with the Ime Udoka situation still in the air, many believe Mazzulla could be here to stay as the new head coach of the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics will begin their regular season on October 18th, when they host the Philadelphia 76ers and last year’s runner-up MVP, Center Joel Embiid.