Even as Joe Mazzulla guided the Boston Celtics to the best record in the NBA at the All-Star break, questions about his long-term status in the organization remained.
That was until the Celtics finally decided to shed the interim label from Mazzulla — a tag given to him due to the Ime Udoka scandal at the beginning of the season — and officially named him the 19th head coach in Celtics history on Thursday.
But why did the Celtics decide that this was the right time to put all their backing behind Mazzulla? Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens explained it was partially to remove any doubt lingering about Mazzulla being the man for the job.
“They’ve obviously done a great job,” Stevens told reporters, per NBC Sports Boston. “They’ve obviously put themselves in position to compete for the things that we ultimately want to compete for thus far. I want to give them the opportunity to finish the regular season strong, hopefully the postseason strong, and not be in a cloud of uncertainty. They’ve certainly have earned that.”
With the Celtics clearly moving forward with Mazzulla, it puts to rest any questions about the standing of Udoka, who received a team-issued, season-long suspension, with the franchise. Part of the Celtics’ announcement Thursday about the promotion of Mazzulla was that they also agreed to a contract extension with him.
Stevens admires the work the 34-year-old Mazzulla has done this season as the youngest head coach in the NBA. And Stevens sure is enthusiastic about what Mazzulla can accomplish this season and in the years to come.
“Joe, specifically, has just done a great job. He really has,” Stevens said. “He’s always prepared. He’s really driven. He does all of the work necessary but he also has a pulse on when the work needs to be put aside for the people. … We were not only really comfortable with it, we’re also really excited about him leading us now and into the future.”