Friday, February 17, 2023

Joe Mazzulla says he's 'grateful' after being officially named Celtics head coach

Joe Mazzulla is now officially the Celtics head coach, after the team removed the interim tag Thursday morning, ending the short-lived Ime Udoka era.

The former assistant turned full-time head coach has led Boston to the league's best record of 42-17 entering the All-Star break -- earning the opportunity for him and his staff to coach "Team Giannis" this weekend in the "mid-season classic."

Still, the New England native couldn't be happier with the uncertainty of his future no longer a distraction, as the Celtics seek to win a championship this season and hang banner 18 in the TD Garden rafters.
"I'm just grateful," Mazzulla said in a conference call Thursday afternoon. "Grateful that not many people get an opportunity to experience this, especially in the manner that I am with the players that I'm able to coach and the people I'm able to work for, and it's for the Celtics. It is a dream come true, for sure."
Mazzulla, 34, is the youngest coach in the league and longest tenured on the current Celtics coaching staff since his arrival under the Brad Stevens (then the team's head coach) regime back in 2019. It's been quite the ride to becoming the franchise's 19th head coach.
"Ever since I've been here, even as an assistant, I've always felt their support, I've always felt their communication, I've always felt their honesty," Mazzulla said. "So I always knew exactly where I stood, even though it was an interim position, I knew exactly where I stood. I knew I would get a fair shake, an opportunity. I knew that I was going to be able to do the way that I thought to give you the best chance to be able to be successful because of that. Because of their standard and their communication and how they treated me as an assistant, I just felt comfortable regardless."
Aside from Mazzulla gaining the trust of team president of basketball operations in Stevens, as he's clearly being given the keys to lead the Celtics for years to come, but Mazzulla also has the respect of the locker room which can never be overstated when it comes to a championship roster.
"I know Joe will work his tail off, I know Joe will give everything he has to lead, and I know he gives a damn about everybody in that locker room," Stevens said in the same conference call Thursday. "Like he really cares. It eats him up when something doesn't go well individually for a guy. It eats him up when he feels like he's let the team down. He's not going to ever come in and say, I wish this person or this person or this person would've done their jobs better. He'll always say the opposite."
Even Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck has been impressed with Mazzulla from the first time he really got to speak with him, leaving a lasting impact well prior to all the success he's had leading and helping the team grow so far this season.
"He's confident, he's strong," Grousbeck said Friday morning on WEEI's The Greg Hill Show. "I first got to know him at a dinner, I just sat and had a dinner on the road in Milwaukee last year during the playoffs. I just was amazed by him at that first dinner. Just how intense he is, how humble he is, how much he wants to soak things in. He's got a lot to teach, but he's all about learning.

"He's an amazing guy. He's a really different guy with a lot of great qualities. He's not just run of the mill, he's very special."
With 23 games remaining in the regular season, Mazzulla and the Celtics will look to gain some momentum before a deep playoff run that they hope turns into a Finals berth in back-to-back years, but this time with the Larry O'Brien trophy being raised over their heads as champs.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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