Celtics Have ‘No Reason’ to Commit to Joe Mazzulla: Sources

Joe Mazzulla, Boston Celtics

Getty Joe Mazzulla, Boston Celtics

When the Boston Celtics suspended Ime Udoka for the upcoming season, it was Joe Mazzulla that Brad Stevens promoted to lead the team throughout 2022-23 NBA calendar.

And now, with Udoka reportedly in talks with the Brooklyn Nets over replacing Steve Nash, there’s a chance Mazzulla could get the job full-time. However, according to an Eastern Conference Executive, who spoke with Heavy on Sports NBA Insider Sean Deveney under the condition of anonymity, the Celtics should bide their time before making a decision on who becomes their next full-time head coach.

“They have the option of just seeing what Mazzulla can do and take it from there. I would not just assume that Mazzulla is their guy—there is a lot we do not know about him yet and they have no reason to hurry to make him the guy going forward. They might but, why? They have him on an audition now.

They went to the Finals last year, so you can understand them not wanting to mess with the chemistry of the coaching staff, at least trying to avoid that as much as they can. But they need to get back to Ime’s defensive scheme. And I think you have seen a lot of guys not that happy with Ime leaving to go to Brooklyn. That is something to keep an eye on. If these guys don’t believe in Mazzulla, they will point the finger at the front office for losing Ime and that will make everything more difficult,” The executive said.

Since stepping into the interim head coaching role, Mazzulla has impressed with his diverse offensive system and slowly seems to be figuring out his preferred rotations while also holding the Celtics accountable for their defensive struggles to start the season. 

Mazzulla Learned From Both Stevens & Udoka

On October 25, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix released an exclusive interview with Mazzulla, which covered a wide range of topics, but one of the more interesting points was when Boston’s latest head coach discussed learning from both Stevens and Udoka during his time as an assistant with the team.

“This team has been coached by two great coaches. One [Stevens] was technical and very deliberate, another [Udoka] had great feel, [offered] player empowerment and so I got to see both. I think the team is going to need a version of everybody. And I think based on how the short term goes, you decide what a team needs in that moment. To predetermine how you’re going to coach your team throughout a season, I don’t think is the right way to go about it because you never know what you’re going to go through, whether it’s good or bad,” Mazzulla said.

Mazzulla is experiencing a unique start to his career as an NBA head coach, from the circumstances which caused him to land the job in the first place, to the expectations on his shoulders of helping the Celtics compete for a championship.

Stevens Has Belief in Mazzulla

On October 27, the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach released an article that included some quotes from an interview with Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, which shed some light on the team’s decision to promote Mazzulla following Udoka’s suspension.

According to Grousbeck, Stevens was adamant that if the team was going to be promoting from within, Mazzulla would be the ideal choice for the role.

“But during those talks, the one part that was never in question was who would step in if it wasn’t going to be Ime…[Stevens] put his mark on that when he said, ‘I stand by this recommendation, and feel extremely strongly about Joe,’” Himmelsbach wrote.

Now, it would appear that Mazzulla is potentially one step closer to earning the job as Celtics head coach on a full-time basis, but, one would assume that he will need to prove he’s capable of succeeding with the team before any final decision is made.

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