During the interview, the topic of Joe Mazzulla came up, most notably how the rookie head coach navigated a difficult first season on the job after being thrust into the role shortly before training camp.
Interestingly, Ainge noted how he believed everyone within the Celtics organization is likely under the impression that Mazzulla is a better coach than Ime Udoka – the man who led the Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals.
“This team found joy. They were inconsistent, but they were rooting for each other. They were all defending Joe in the media,” Ainge told Shaughnessy. “You see Joe’s toughness and stubbornness. He’s a relentless worker. He has a passion to learn. Joe is a leader, and I think this was a difficult situation with the high expectations the team had coming in. I don’t think there’s anybody there that doesn’t believe that Joe is better than Ime (Udoka) as a coach.”
Udoka is now the head coach of the Houston Rockets after being hired for the job following the dismissal of Stephen Silas shortly after the Western Conference team’s season came to an end.
Celtics Assistant Coaches Expected to Join Udoka
According to a May 31 report by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, there is a belief that multiple assistant coaches will leave the Celtics this summer in order to team back up with Ime Udoka in Houston.
“According to an NBA source, assistants Ben Sullivan, Aaron Miles, and Mike Moser are expected to join Ime Udoka’s staff in Houston, leaving three or more openings on Mazzulla’s staff,” Washburn reported. “There are a number of former head coaches and quality assistants who would likely be interested in coming to Boston to work with the likes of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and help the Celtics win a championship.”
Given how none of the assistants Washburn has mentioned were hired by Mazzulla, their departure could potentially be a blessing in disguise, as it would allow the Celtics head coach to build out his own supporting staff.
Brad Stevens Heaps Praise on Joe Mazzulla
During a June 1 press conference, Celtics President of Basketball Operations, Brad Stevens, discussed a broad range of topics, including his opinion on the job Mazzulla has done since becoming the team’s head coach.
“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,” Stevens said. “And he’s accountable. Those leadership qualities are hard to find. I know they’re easy to talk about, but when you can show all those through the expectations and the microscope that he was under, that’s hard to do. Our players, our staff, everybody around him believe(s) in him, and we’ve got to do our best to support him going forward.”
With all signs pointing to Mazzulla remaining as the Celtics’ head coach heading into next season, it will be interesting to see how the team looks to fill out their vacant assistant coaching roles as plans begin to get put into place for another potential championship run.