The Celtics on Saturday night paid a visit to Utah for the first time since Danny Ainge left Boston and joined the Jazz as their alternate governor and CEO.
And before the C’s took to the court against the Jazz, Ainge praised a few ex-Celtics colleagues: Joe Mazzulla, who’s debuting at the helm in Boston and Will Hardy, who’s done the same this season in Utah, served as former assistants with the Celtics last season.
The Jazz have struggled mightily, flirting with the bottom of the Western Conference while the Celtics — while struggling lately — have played tug-of-war for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, in the process of acknowledging both Mazzulla and Hardy, Ainge might’ve hinted at a noticeable difference between both head coaches — the youngest in all the NBA.
“I just always liked Joe’s work ethic, his focus, his intelligence,” Ainge said, according to Jay King of The Athletic. “I feel like Joe is one of those guys — one way that I’ve always measured greatness is how much a person can learn from mistakes they make. Joe’s going to learn from his mistakes, just like Will Hardy learns from his mistakes quickly.”
Ainge mentioned how Hardy has learned while foreshadowing Mazzulla learning from his mistakes. Considering how Boston’s 118-117 loss unfolded, perhaps Ainge, who previously served as a head coach for three seasons, is right.
Mazzulla failed to get Jaylen Brown — who was Saturday night’s best Celtics player — the ball in the final 1:14 of play after connecting on a crucial game-saving 3-pointer. Mazzulla also elected not to play guard Derrick White, an out-of-the-blue defensive anchor this season, for a single minute in the entire fourth quarter. At that point in the game, White already had a block and steal against the larger Utah squad.
“The coaches that learn and move on, they become legendary coaches,” Ainge said. “And I think both Joe and Will have a chance to be those.”