Celtics ‘Long-Term’ Head Coach Revealed: Report

Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics.

Getty Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics.

With their November 16 win over the Atlanta Hawks, the Boston Celtics improved to 12-3 — the best record in the NBA — despite their offseason challenges, including the suspension of head coach Ime Udoka.

Now, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Celtics have found Udoka’s long-term replacement: interim head coach Joe Mazzulla.

“Everything is aligned and in place for Joe Mazzulla to be the long-term coach for the Boston Celtics, except one thing — Ime Udoka is technically still the head coach of the Boston Celtics on suspension,” Wojnarowski reported. “But for all intents and purposes, he has coached his last game in Boston. This is uncharted territory.”

Mazzulla had led the Celtics to the best offensive rating in the NBA so far this season (119.2), and if the season were to end today, it would be the best offensive rating in league history. Meanwhile, their defense, which struggled to start the season, has climbed back up to 16th in the NBA (111.5).

Boston is averaging the most points per game in the NBA (120.4), has the third-best field goal percentage (48.8%) and has the fourth-best 3-point percentage (38.7%).

Mazzulla Receives Praise From Rival Coach

The Celtics are on an eight-game win streak, with one of their victories coming over the Denver Nuggets, who are now 9-4 on the season and sit in second place in the Western Conference. Boston took them down by a score of 131-112.

After the game, Nuggets head coach Mike Malone praised Mazzulla. He credited the first-year head coach for the Celtics’ hot start.

“I give Joe, their coach, a lot of credit, for starting the season with all the noise around this team, and to fill in for the shoes that he’s filling in for. Give him and give their team a lot of credit for the start they’ve gotten themselves off to,” Malone said.

Mazzulla has worked with several players on the roster for years, first joining the organization in 2016 as an assistant with the Maine Red Claws (now the Maine Celtics). After departing to coach at the collegiate level, Mazzulla re-joined Boston in 2019 as an assistant under Brad Stevens. When Udoka took over last summer, Mazzulla was one of the only staff members who remained on board.

Mazzulla Sounds Off on Celtics Defense

Despite the team’s hot start, the Celtics’ defense has been noticeably worse this season than it was last season, when it led the league in defensive rating. But they have been playing without injured center Robert Williams, who was on the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team a year ago.

Toward the start of their current win streak, Mazzulla stressed the importance of locking in on defense.

“[We’re] 3-0 in our last three games because of our defensive execution and our offensive management and organization,” Mazzulla said. “Let that be a springboard for our defense. That defense was who we were and what helped us get there. That’s got to be our identity, along with our offense. That’s a hell of a job. Our shifts, our intentionality, and our attention to detail.”

Williams was expected to return to the lineup in December, but now could be looking at “the second half of the season,” according to a October 18 report from Shams Charania.

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