If Danny Ainge had it his way, he would have brought not one, but two members of the Celtics coaching staff to Utah over the NBA offseason.
The Jazz cleaned house this past summer, trading away their two best players and hiring a new head coach. Will Hardy, who was an assistant on Ime Udoka’s staff last season, will kick off his Utah tenure Wednesday night when the Jazz host the Denver Nuggets. But as Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck revealed Tuesday, Hardy wasn’t the only Boston coach who Ainge had his eyes on after the 2021-22 campaign concluded. The Jazz CEO also wanted to acquire Joe Mazzulla, who ultimately became Celtics head coach in wake of the Udoka scandal.
“I prevented Danny from stealing him this summer, because I told Danny I’d fly to Utah and personally strangle him if he did. You can quote that,” Grousbeck said on “The Greg Hill Show,” as transcribed by WEEI. “You can take one person, an assistant, and make them a head coach, which they did with Will Hardy. Then they also wanted Mazzulla, and I was like, ‘That’s it, you’re crossing the line, and we’re not having it.’ And that was just when Joe was senior assistant with us, and now all of a sudden he’s interim head coach.”
Mazzulla made his NBA head coaching debut Tuesday at TD Garden, and it was one to remember. The Celtics took down a fellow NBA Finals hopeful, the Philadelphia 76ers, on the strength of great performances from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. On an evening that started with a tribute to the late, great Bill Russell and concluded with a win over one of Boston’s longest-running rivals, one can imagine the emotions felt by the 34-year-old Rhode Island native.
The C’s will try to take down another Eastern Conference power, the Miami Heat, on Friday night at FTX Arena.