Joe Mazzulla’s Rise To Celtics Coach Far From Traditional

'I just listened to what the organization said'


Sep 26, 2022

CANTON, Mass. — There was no big job interview or hiring process to become the next coach of the Boston Celtics for Joe Mazzulla.

Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck even hinted at possibly bringing former coach Brad Stevens out of the front office and back onto the sideline to guide Boston with Ime Udoka suspended for the entire 2022-23. But with a great deal of confidence from Grousbeck and Stevens, the job was handed to Mazzulla. But make no mistake, Mazzulla was a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency choice.

It had to be tough to even celebrate the promotion given the circumstances in how Mazzulla got the job. It also had to be a whirlwind few days for the 34-year-old as he tries to steer a ship that has NBA title aspirations, but currently is taking on water.

“I just listened to what the organization said,” Mazzulla shared at Celtics media day Monday about learning he would be Boston’s interim head coach. “And then because of the timeline, you don’t really have that much time. Like I said, the most important thing to me was giving people space and opportunity to communicate how they feel. Did not rush the process of their healing, and that was what I was focused on. And then the second most important thing is our players. How can we get them better and how can I rely on them because of how good they are and how good our team is.”

With the organization in turmoil and Mazzulla, who was an assistant on the Celtics staff the past three seasons, inserted into a key leadership position, he said he took it upon himself to reach out to those who work for the franchise. Mazzulla also was asked if had any conversations with Udoka about taking over his role for the upcoming campaign.

“I’ve talked to everyone in the organization,” Mazzulla said. “I thought it was my job to listen and give people space and time and ask people what they need. I’ve worked to do that for everyone in the organization since the news has broke.”

By not directly answering if he had been in touch with Udoka, Mazzulla was immediately asked to clarify.

“I’ve spoken to everybody who I feel like has been needed to be spoken to, and the people that I’ve built relationships with, so yeah,” he said.

Even with the scandal surrounding Udoka, which seems to produce new rumors every day, Mazzulla also had to address transgressions he made while in college over a decade ago.

Mazzulla’s certainly in a difficult spot, as it was just three years ago he coaching Division 2 Fairmont State. It’s been a meteoric rise for Mazzulla as he now has to confront the massive challenge of being responsible of getting the Celtics prepared for the start of the season, which is only three weeks ago. And after getting into the coaching ranks, it’s fair to say it has to be far from the way he thought he’d get his first head coaching job in the NBA.

Follow along with NESN’s coverage of Celtics media day here.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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