Cool, calm, and collected.
Those words perfectly describe Joe Mazzulla in his first game as the head coach of the Boston Celtics. Sure, it was just a preseason contest, but anytime a team wins by 41 points, it’s worthy of some sort of praise. Mazzulla led his squad to a dominant 134-93 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday afternoon.
Despite their turnover problems (a storyline that carried over from last season), the Celtics churned out an impressive performance. Jaylen Brown led the way with 24 points, but Boston got everybody involved, with Mazzulla doling out minutes to every active player on the training camp roster.
After the contest, new point guard Malcolm Brogdon had nothing but praise for the Mazzulla, stating that the head coach stayed composed and even drew up some nice plays.
“I thought he was excellent. I thought he was composed [and] I thought he had some great out-of-timeout plays.”
Brogdon had a notable night himself, dropping 11 points, five rebounds, and nine assists in his debut with the team. He thrived in his new sixth man role, pacing the team in the playmaking department.
The veteran also gave some insight into Mazzulla’s coaching style, noting that “he’s not a yeller.” Brogdon also mentioned that Mazzulla is “very direct and very honest,” which he believes to be what every player wants in a coach.
“He’s not a yeller; he’s not a screamer,” Brogdon said of Mazzulla. “He’s very deliberate; he’s very direct. He’s not a guy that’s going to over-talk you and tell you too much because he wants you to go out and have a clear mind. He’s going to be very direct and very honest with what he expects from you, which I think is everything an NBA player wants in a coach.”
This style could be a bit different from Udoka’s, as he could often be seen calling timeouts and digging into players on the sidelines after mistakes. From Brogdon’s report, Mazzulla runs his ship a bit differently.
And while the Celtics were able to breeze past the Hornets, Jaylen Brown noted that the team’s practices were harder than the game was.
“Practice has been a lot harder than the game. Don’t let this game fool you, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
On top of his 24 points, Brown had five rebounds and one impressive assist to Al Horford down low. He shot 8-of-11 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range, getting off to a hot start and then helping Boston maintain their lead.
As for the coach himself, Mazzulla expressed a ton of gratitude after the game. He said that he’s ecstatic with the group of players he gets to coach and is relishing the opportunity.
“It felt like I was coaching a great team that wanted to win. That was fun to coach. Just grateful for it. Like I said, grateful because the Celtics, grateful because I get to coach a bunch of great guys and great players. And not many people in my position get that opportunity, so just really being more grateful than anything else.”
"It felt like I was coaching a great team that wanted to win"— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 2, 2022
Joe Mazzzula talks about his debut as interim head coach pic.twitter.com/ZgoUnRssbE
While the circumstances are less than ideal, not many coaches get the chance to take the reigns of a bonafide title contender fresh off of an appearance in the NBA Finals. Mazzulla will need to lean on his staff and players while also putting his best foot forward.
When discussing the team’s performance on the court, Mazzulla made conveyed a relatively conservative stance. While he acknowledged that the team played hard and did some things well, he also stated that it doesn’t matter much because they still need “to continue to get better.”
“Our guys tried to do the right thing, they played hard, and we got a lot on film that we can learn from. So it’s a balance. It’s a balance of this is what we did well, but it doesn’t really matter because we have to continue to get better.”
Again, one can only learn so much from a single preseason game, especially when Boston utilized a 16-man rotation. But based on his words, his actions, and the reviews he received, Mazzulla seems to be on the right track in the head coach’s chair.