Why Suns Guard Describes Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla As ‘Just Special’

'I'm hoping they can take that interim tag off'


December 8, 2022

Phoenix Suns guard Damion Lee and Boston Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla have a history together, long before the two squared off on opposing sidelines during Wednesday night’s contest at Footprint Center.

Lee, an undrafted product out of Louisville, like Mazzulla, didn’t instantly find his way to an NBA floor. In fact, the two both spent time with the Celtics’ G League affiliate in Maine, formerly known as the Red Claws. During the 2016-17 season, Lee was cut from Celtics preseason training camp and assigned to the Red Claws, while Mazzulla was hired as an assistant after three seasons at Division II Fairmount State.

While the two worked their way up the ranks to find their place in the NBA, Lee has nothing but fond memories of the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month, who has struck noteworthy success through his debut campaign at the job with the Celtics.

“I think he’s someone that’s just special,” Lee said, Lee told Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. “He’s an unbelievable person, and the way he can relate to anyone, he just has that humble, man of God mindset. He’s always been that support and that light for me.

“… To see the success he’s having now, it was really just a matter of time,” Lee said. “Selfishly, I’m hoping they can take that interim tag off. But really he’s going to be able to coach in the NBA as long as he wants.”

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With the Red Claws and alongside Mazzulla, Lee averaged 17.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 47.2% from the field and 46.6% from beyond the arc in 16 games played. That same season, Lee suffered a torn ACL, which then lead to his departure as the Celtics waived him.

Nevertheless, while Mazzulla watched the Celtics absolutely toy with the Suns en route to their NBA-best 21st win of the season in 26 games, the 34-year-old also spoke in high regard for Lee.

“I’m just grateful to him for trusting me,” Mazzulla said. “He listened and we worked together and were just able to build a great relationship. For me, it really was an introduction into how you cultivate great relationships at this level, and how you take care of them and develop them.”

As of Thursday, Mazzulla remains the favorite (+140) to win NBA Coach of the Year this season, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, while Lee has played 21 minutes per contest through 25 games played for the Suns.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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