No, Celtics Didn’t Make Early Call On Joe Mazzulla’s Promotion

This wasn't premature by the Celtics


February 16

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens entrusted Joe Mazzulla to display a next-man-up mentality when initially named the team’s interim head coach before the season tipped off.

And that’s exactly what he’s done.

Mazzulla, with limited NBA experience and big shoes to fill in a demanding market, has done exactly what’s been needed and more. He’s kept the ship afloat. He’s kept a team with several new faces invested and determined. And most of all, Mazzulla’s results have continued to show.

The Celtics, as of the NBA All-Star break, are still atop the league at 42-17 with 23 games remaining in their regular-season schedule. And as a token of the organization’s gratitude, Mazzulla’s interim tag was officially removed, making him head coach of the Celtics while also receiving a contract extension Thursday.

“He’s an outstanding leader,” Stevens said, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “I think he’s done a great job right from the get-go of galvanizing our locker room around a mission.”

From the get-go, Mazzulla made the city of Boston quickly forget former head coach Ime Udoka, which made the relevancy of his scandals’ entirety blow away in the wind. After just a month and some change, Mazzulla was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. And while he’s given the media plenty of zingers, whether good, bad or weird, one thing cannot be debated: The Celtics are in a far much better position 59 games in than they were a year ago.

Granted, much of that can be attributed to Jayson Tatum’s MVP-caliber campaign, Marcus Smart’s career-best (7.1 assists) efficiency, or the Malcolm Brogdon acquisition — all fair points. Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s ability to co-exist was a hot topic in Boston last season, Smart was questioned and the Celtics very likely win the NBA Finals with Brogdon last summer. However, credit must be dished out where it’s due. And Mazzulla has certainly earned his fair share.

Despite having arguably the best depth of any team in the NBA, Mazzulla has been tested several times. Aside from the early absence of Robert Williams and the ongoing absence of Danilo Gallinari, the 34-year-old has been subjected to adapt time and time again. Boston has endured short-term absences from Tatum, Brown, Smart, Al Horford and Derrick White to name a few. And somehow, someway, each time the Celtics have been able to weather whatever storm they’ve encountered.

On Tuesday night against a fully healthy Milwaukee Bucks team, Mazzulla ran with a lineup consisting of White, Sam Hauser, Grant Williams, Mike Muscala and Blake Griffin. By no means should a team led by two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo have any issue bulldozing through a Tatum and Brown-less Celtics group, right?

Well, wrong. Yes, the Bucks clawed out a 131-125 overtime win. But that victory, if anything, should’ve shed a few hours of sleep from the Bucks. That battle showed Boston’s ability to remain focused and competitive despite the conditions in play, which once again, Mazzulla bears responsibility for. And that was far from the first time they’ve done so.

“I know he gives a damn about everybody in that locker room,” Stevens said, according to Weiss. “He really, really cares. It eats him up when something doesn’t go well individually for a guy. It eats him up when he feels like he’s let the team down.”

On Oct. 8, when tasked with overcoming Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers without Smart, Horford, Williams and two quarters of Brown, the Celtics again rose to the occasion. While Tatum presented an underwhelming 12-point showing, Boston uplifted their No. 1 man and put Philadelphia to shame in a 106-99 victory. At the time, that game could be recognized as the greatest symbol of Boston’s depth. But as shown time and time again, the Celtics still find a way to outdo themselves.

And with a whole second half of basketball ahead, there’s still plenty of time for Mazzulla and the Celtics to do just that.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla
Previous Article

Celtics Gave Joe Mazzulla Promotion To Remove ‘Cloud Of Uncertainty’

Boston Red Sox pitcher Kenley Jansen
Next Article

How New Rules Could Force Red Sox’s Kenley Jansen To Reinvent Himself

Picked For You