To the common NBA observer, it might seem like Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla always is on edge.
Mazzulla’s press conferences, both before and after Boston’s games, tend to have a terse nature. The 34-year-old also has proven he’s not afraid to try to stick it to the media if he feels slighted. This might be Mazzulla’s authentic self, or perhaps it’s a mask he puts on once the cameras are in his face.
Regardless, Stephen A. Smith has an idea of why Boston’s first-year head coach might not be the best receiver of criticism.
“We love the fire in your belly. We love the fact that you’ll call out the media like that. We love the fact that you can be feisty and all of that stuff and you’re never seen smiling. That’s your damn business. We don’t give a damn. Be you, brother. Be you,” Smith said Monday on ESPN’s “First Take.” “But in the same breath, take the heat when you deserve it. …There was a coach there named Ime Udoka from last year. In his first year, he did what Brad Stevens — a damn good coach and now the president of basketball operations — couldn’t do in seven years. He took them to the Finals. We all know that because of the turmoil Udoka found himself in, that’s how Mazzulla got the job. There is no question that Mazzulla is going to be measured against that. That’s part of the reason why he can be so sensitive in my opinion. I don’t know the man. I’m just guessing.”
Again, Mazzulla might just have an unrelenting competitive streak that he’s not always able to harness. That said, it would only be natural for a coach to compare themself to their predecessor(s), especially one who experienced a level of success.
Fortunately for Mazzulla, he has a chance to do something neither Udoka nor Stevens could achieve in Boston. An NBA championship is well within the realm of possibility for the Celtics, who can take another step toward the hardware Tuesday night at TD Garden.