CANTON, Mass. — As Joe Mazzulla gets ready for his future as interim Boston Celtics head coach, he also had to address his, at times, turbulent past.
Mazzulla, who takes over for the suspended Ime Udoka, landed in hot water more than a decade ago due to off-court behavior when he played at West Virginia. Mazzulla was charged three separate times by police, the first coming in 2008 for underage drinking and aggravated assault at a Pittsburgh Pirates game. Two years later Mazzulla was charged for public urination, but the most serious wrongdoing came in 2009 when he was charged with domestic battery after allegedly grabbing a woman by the neck at a bar.
Mazzulla addressed those circumstances and owned up to his past transgressions when speaking to reporters Monday during Celtics media day.
“Listen, I’ve made mistakes. I’m not perfect. I hurt people. I’ve had to use the situations I put myself in as a younger man, I had to use to learn from and to become a better person,” Mazzulla said. “That’s what I’ve tried to focus on is how can I re-create my identity as a person, how can I rely on my faith and how can I just have a positive impact on the people around me. And I’ve always had good people around me.”
Mazzulla didn’t go into any details of the incidents, but offered up he’s changed since they took place. Now he feels like he has a purpose.
“I can’t talk about the specifics of that, but what I can talk about is I’m not the same person that I was,” Mazzulla said. “I think as a you grow as a person, you’re constantly having to build that identity. I didn’t have an identity at a certain point in my life for whatever reason. And I think it’s how can I develop an identity, how can I find a foundation, which for me is my faith. And then, how can I impact people positively around me, and that’s something I’ve really learned throughout my life.”
The Celtics, especially president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, have a tremendous amount of confidence in Mazzulla to guide the Celtics despite what occurred in his past. Stevens said when he hired Mazzulla as an assistant prior to the 2019-20 season he thoroughly vetted the coach.
At 34 years old, Mazzulla is the youngest coach in the NBA this season, and his only head coaching experience comes at Division 2 Fairmont State. He also coached the Summer League Celtics last year.
It appears he has learned from his past mistakes as he hasn’t had any known legal troubles since those incidents. And now, he’ll have to learn quickly on the job with the Celtics season three weeks away.
Follow along with NESN’s coverage from Celtics Media Day here.