Breaking news in the NBA last week, as a result of a multi-month internal investigation, prompted the Boston Celtics to suspend head coach Ime Udoka for one season. That move ultimately thrust Celtics assistant coach, and former West Virginia guard, Joe Mazzulla into the interim head coach role.
Mazzulla has quickly moved up the coaching ranks. He started as an assistant coach at Glenville State, later became a successful head coach at Fairmont State, and also has coaching experience in the NBA G-League.
Mazzulla has been with the Celtics since 2019, and after three years as an assistant under Brad Stevens and Udoka, has now assumed the most important seat on the sidelines on game day.
“Joe Mazzulla is a very well respected young guy,” Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix said on The Dan Patrick Show Friday.
Mannix is a veteran NBA reporter and is very knowledgeable about the Celtics organization.
He wonders if Mazzulla’s tenure as Boston head coach could extend past this season.
“There is a sense that Joe Mazzulla is a coach in waiting, and perhaps that’s what (Boston President of Basketball Operations) Brad Stevens is looking for in making this decision,” Mannix said, who listed some more-experienced candidates within and familiar with the Celtics organization. “One of the things that people have talked to me about is perhaps Brad Stevens is not just looking for a stop-gap for this year, but for a head coach for the foreseeable future.”
Stevens voiced his belief in Mazzulla on Friday.
A complete scope of the details that led to Udoka’s season-long suspension remains publicly unclear. It also remains unclear if Udoka will return to the Celtics bench when his suspension comes to an end next summer.
Mazzulla has the backing of the Celtics organization, at least for this season.
“In promoting Joe Mazzulla, at least on an interim basis, it signals to me that perhaps they’re looking for not just a coach for this season, but a coach for years to come,” Mannix said.
Mazzulla, part of the Boston staff that turned an abysmal start into a run to the NBA Finals last season, is effectively auditioning for his first full-time head coaching job.
The 2022-23 NBA season begins on Tuesday, Oct. 18. Boston will host the Philadelphia 76ers on TNT, meaning Mazzulla’s first game as an NBA head coach will be played on national TV.