Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens confirmed Joe Mazzulla will continue to serve as Boston’s head coach heading into the 2023-24 campaign.
“Yeah, I think when you consider the position he was thrust into and the overall accomplishments of the group, I thought he did a really good job,” Stevens told reporters Thursday during his end-of-season press conference at the Auerbach Center, per CLNS Media. “I mean, when you look at it in the big picture, having a team that was second in offense, second in defense, won 57 games, and has a chance to go to the NBA Finals, on your home court. There’s a lot of direction and organization that goes into that. I thought he did a good job.”
When Stevens was asked if Mazzulla was the best head coach moving forward, he responded: “Yeah, I think he is.
“And I thought, again, he did a really good job with this group. Everybody is going to overreact to the best players and coaches after every game. That’s always the way it is. We know that going in. So we have to be able to judge things on the whole,” Stevens continued. “He’s a terrific leader. He’ll only get better at anything that he can learn from this year, because he’s constantly trying to learn. And he’s accountable. Those leadership qualities are hard to find. And I know they’re easy to talk about, but when you can show all those through the expectations and the microscope he was under, that’s hard to do. And so, yeah, was he perfect? Would he like to have some moments back? Every coach would. Even the coaches nobody talks about would. And we all that have coached know how hard that is. At the same time, our players, our staff, everybody around him, believes in him. And we got to do our best going forward.”
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Stevens acknowledged how it’s up to the entire organization to share the blame for Boston’s earlier-than-expected playoff exit. Coming off an NBA Finals appearance under former head coach Ime Udoka, the Celtics failed to reach that point this season despite Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each having All-NBA campaigns. Boston bowed out after a Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, unable to complete a comeback after trailing 3-0 in the best-of-seven series.
Stevens cited how the moving parts on Mazzulla’s staff during the 2022-23 campaign weren’t ideal given the suspension and ultimate release of Udoka just a few days before training camp. Udoka initially was suspended for violations of team policies, reportedly stemming from an improper relationship with a female subordinate. The Green also lost Will Hardy last offseason, as he was hired by the Utah Jazz, and Damon Stoudamire left the Celtics in March for the Georgia Tech job. Boston essentially was unable to replace three high-level coaches, but now plans to do so with a full offseason ahead.
“Our assistants this year, and our assistants pretty much every year, are going to be called and asked by a lot of teams. So we have a good staff,” Stevens said. “Moving forward, we’ll see how everything shakes itself out with what the staff looks like, but we’ll at least have one addition that we’ll make now that we have a summer to make it. And we’ll go from there.”
Stevens noted Boston’s new hire will be someone with substantial NBA experience, which the Celtics were without. Mazzulla will have input in the decision, of course, as he’s not going anywhere with a reported three years and $14 million guaranteed left on his deal. It’s worth noting Celtics players publicly offered their support for Mazzulla, though reports have indicated there was a “key disagreement” regarding his on-court philosophy and what players believed was best for the team.
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Nevertheless, Stevens’ confirmation provides an answer to one of Boston’s biggest offseason questions just three days after the campaign was concluded.
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