Who is Joe Mazzulla? Meet the interim head coach of the Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics could have an interim head coach on the sidelines this upcoming NBA season, and everybody out of doors of the Northeast could also be questioning:

Exactly who is Joe Mazzulla?

In the wake of Celtics coach Ime Udoka being suspended for the whole 2022-23 season for having an intimate courting with a feminine member of the franchise’s personnel, Mazzulla has been increased from assistant to interim head coach of the protecting Eastern Conference champions.

The transfer continues a meteoric upward thrust for Mazzulla inside of basketball teaching circles. In 3 years, he has long gone from teaching in Division II to the helm of a group projected to have the maximum wins in the NBA this season, consistent with Caesars Sportsbook.

Mazzulla, 34, is the youngest head coach to take over a group that reached the NBA Finals the prior season since Lawrence Frank in 2003-04, in step with ESPN Stats & Information analysis. (That yr, Frank took over midseason when the New Jersey Nets — who had made the Finals the prior two seasons — fired head coach Byron Scott.)

He is additionally the youngest to be in that place to start out a season since overdue Celtics legend Bill Russell, who become player-coach of the franchise in 1966-67 at 32 years outdated.

Mazzulla and Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy — who was once Udoka’s lead assistant remaining season, earlier than being employed in the summer time by means of former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to exchange Quin Snyder — at the moment are tied for the difference of being the youngest head coach in the NBA.

The two of them, then again, could not have other expectancies getting into the season. Shortly after hiring Hardy, Ainge traded away Rudy Gobert after which Donovan Mitchell, sending the Jazz right into a full-on rebuild because of this.

Mazzulla, in the meantime, takes over a championship contender coming off a mystical run to the Finals — and does so with most effective two years of head-coaching revel in (at a small school) below his belt.

Here’s a take a look at the younger coach’s previous revel in, at the side of the process forward of him this season:


Mazzulla’s street to the NBA

Mazzulla made his title enjoying 145 video games for West Virginia from 2006 to 2011, first for John Beilein after which Bob Huggins.

After school, Mazzulla spent 5 years as an assistant coach in the Division II ranks — with Glenville State from 2011 to 2013, and Fairmont State, positioned more or less 20 miles southwest of Morgantown, West Virginia, from 2013 to 2016.

The Celtics have been top on Mazzulla — who is from Warwick, Rhode Island — for a while. They to start with introduced him into the NBA’s orbit in 2016, after they employed him as an assistant for the G League’s Maine Red Claws. Two years later, then-Celtics head coach Brad Stevens employed Mazzulla.

Following his one season in the G League, Mazzulla returned to Fairmont State as its head coach in 2017, going a blended 43-17 throughout two seasons earlier than coming to the Celtics in 2019.

When Udoka got here aboard in June 2021, Mazzulla remained on the Celtics’ personnel.

“He was a guy that there was a consensus, yes,” Udoka stated the day earlier than Game 6 of the NBA Finals in June. “Somebody that [the players] all worked with closely, believed in and understood his upside.”

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Mazzulla was once a finalist for the Jazz head-coaching activity this summer time — a place that in the long run went to Hardy, Udoka’s best assistant remaining season. (The Jazz sought after Mazzulla to enroll in Hardy as an assistant, however the Celtics saved him in Boston.)

“I love Joe,” Jayson Tatum stated of Mazzulla earlier than Game 6 of the Finals. “You could tell how passionate [he is] about the guys and his craft. He’s gotten so much more knowledgeable, more detailed, just vocal. More comfortable in his role as a coach. You’ve seen growth from his first year.”

During his school years, Mazzulla was once arrested two times — as soon as, in 2008, for underage consuming and annoyed attack, a case through which he pled in charge and paid a high-quality, after which in 2009 for home battery after an incident at a bar, a case that was once settled out of court docket.

When requested all the way through Friday’s press convention about the incidents, and the way they factored into the determination to make Mazzulla the group’s interim coach, Stevens stated he vetted them totally when he employed Mazzulla as an assistant with the Celtics in 2019.

“I believe strongly in Joe’s substantiveness as a person,” Stevens stated. “He’s been very open with me about how those moments impacted him in every which way and you can see it in the way he carries himself. You could see that for a long time. We’ve had years to get to know him. …

“He’ll be the first to inform you, he is 110 % in charge of that, and I’ll be the first to inform you that I consider in him.”


What lies ahead for Mazzulla and the Celtics?

It is impossible to know how Mazzulla will approach the job. But while people will immediately think about what Udoka’s suspension will mean from an in-game perspective, it is behind the scenes, and in the locker room, where his absence could be felt the most.

From the moment Udoka arrived in Boston last summer, he made a point of challenging the team’s best players, All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, to improve. Udoka pushed the duo to become better playmakers and creators for others, and he wasn’t afraid to say publicly how he felt about the team’s play.

“It’s a scarcity of psychological toughness to combat thru the ones adversarial occasions,” Udoka said after Boston blew a 25-point lead to the New York Knicks in January. “A relaxing presence to gradual it down and get us what we would like is in reality what you want at that time. And now and again all of us get stuck up in it.”

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Brian Windhorst explains how the Celtics will move forward without head coach Ime Udoka.

During the Celtics’ slow start, Udoka’s criticism was at times seen as a detriment. But Boston dramatically turned its season around during the second half of 2021-22, ending the season 51-31, the best record ever for a team that was under .500 at the halfway point. They became the first team under .500 halfway through the season to reach the Finals since the Houston Rockets in 1981, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The combination of Udoka’s suspension and Hardy’s departure has left a void of experience on Boston’s bench. Stevens spent several highly successful years in the role, but he has his hands full running the team’s front office. Perhaps Boston will look to add a veteran assistant coach to provide some insight, as well.

But regardless of what the Celtics choose to do, it was only a few weeks ago that Boston was deemed the winner of the offseason by a plurality of NBA coaches, scouts and executives.

Now, the Celtics find themselves starting over on the eve of training camp. Not only are they reeling from the sudden loss of Udoka, but they also saw their top free agent signing, Danilo Gallinari, tear an ACL while playing for Italy during a FIBA World Cup qualifying game last month. Meanwhile, starting center Robert Williams III underwent surgical procedure this week on the similar knee that brought about him bother right through the 2022 playoffs.

As a end result, a group that was once considered as one of the transparent favorites to advance to the NBA Finals only a few weeks in the past has observed its offseason thrown into absolute chaos mere days earlier than the get started of coaching camp.

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