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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Joe Mazzulla: The new sheriff in the Garden

Joe+Mazzulla+of+the+Boston+Celtics+draws+up+plays+during+a+timeout.
Bianca Oppedisano
Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics draws up plays during a timeout. Illustration by Bianca Oppedisano / Mass Media Staff

The situation involving Ime Udoka and his behind-the-scenes antics with the Boston Celtics seems to be worsening with every new piece of information. Every day, it seems more and more likely that he has coached his last game for the Celtics, and possibly his last game in the NBA.
However, the Celtics took no time when it came to announcing his temporary replacement, Joe Mazzulla, the former Celtics assitant. Many fans read this news and had no idea who Mazzulla was, but it turns out he has quite the background when it comes to basketball.

Mazzulla was born in Rhode Island and played college basketball for five years, under legendary coach Bob Huggins at the University of West Virginia. At first, things were a bit rocky for Mazzulla. He was forced to redshirt his 2008 season after a shoulder injury, and in 2009, he was arrested and suspended for a domestic altercation with a woman in a bar.

It may raise eyebrows among fans to replace the current coach with someone that has such a troubled past. However, according to many close with the team, Mazzulla has grown significantly from this incident. Celtics executive Brad Stevens stated that it “shaped him into who he is today and in a good way. He is 110 percent accountable for that. I believe in him” (1). Mazzulla has also claimed he has sobered up since the incident, as he had trouble with alcohol in the past.

Following his suspension, he made a return to the Mountaineers where he was named a captain and helped take the team to a Final Four appearance in the 2010 March Madness tournament, where they went on to lose to the eventual champions, Duke. However, after the season ended, and despite his college accomplishments, he was not drafted into the NBA (2).

Mazzulla took up coaching and started off with assistant roles at small schools in West Virginia. He eventually landed a job as an assistant with the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ G-League team. After a year in Maine, he went back to West Virginia and became the head coach of Fairmont State Basketball, his first head coaching gig (3).

Despite the small program with Fairmont, he was noticed by the Celtics and was hired as an assistant in 2019 (4). Celtics players have expressed their love for working with Mazzulla over the years and have praised him for his work. Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum emphasized Mazzulla’s importance to the team to former head coach Ime Udoka. When Udoka was hiring and assembling his coaching staff, Tattum pushed Udoka to keep Mazzulla.

Tatum said in an interview during the season “I love Joe, just being around him for the past three years, you can tell how passionate he is about the guys and his craft…he has helped me out tremendously as a player and as a person” (5). Clearly, his importance to the team has been recognized not only by the players, but by the higher-ups, who appointed him as the interim head coach.

Mazzulla is currently tied as the youngest head coach in the NBA with Will Hardy, the newly hired coach of the Utah Jazz, who also worked with the Celtics this past season (6). He certainly has big shoes to fill, as the Celtics are coming off a finals appearance, but if the players and staff are correct about him, there is a good chance that his position may not be a temporary one.

Sources:

  1. https://www.si.com/nba/celtics/top-stories/celtics-believe-in-joe-mazzulla-and-how-his-domestic-battery-arrest-has-since-shaped-him

  2. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/09/28/sports/dont-know-much-about-joe-mazzulla-lets-catch-you-up-new-celtics-coach/

  3. https://www.linkedin.com/in/joe-mazzulla-36338621

  4. https://www.wvgazettemail.com/sports/wvu/wvu-basketball-former-mountaineer-standout-joe-mazzulla-leaves-fairmont-state-for-boston-celtics/article_02e74a2e-8fd7-5a14-8be9-73b599740d13.html

  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5zPYvnnccw&ab_channel=NBAOnFire

  6. https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nba/news/who-is-joe-mazzulla-celtics-coach-ime-udoka/kkrrthxhpqc7qlhottgamdja

About the Contributors
Liam Crampton, Sports Writer
Bianca Oppedisano, Illustrator