As we await details following the news that Ime Udoka likely faces a suspension for a consensual yet inappropriate and intimate relationship with a female staffer, it appears that lead assistant coach Joe Mazzulla is set to step up as the interim head coach for the 2022-23 Boston Celtics, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla is likely to become Boston's interim coach for the season, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/GKEiMemnFN— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 22, 2022
Mazzulla was just promoted to lead assistant in the offseason after last year’s lead assistant, Will Hardy, was hired by the Utah Jazz to coach that organization. Mazzulla was a finalist for the Jazz position as well, demonstrating that his coaching has received recognition outside of the team. Mazzulla is one of the holdovers from Brad Stevens’ coaching staff, so he has rapport with some of the players that goes back a few years.
Joe Mazzulla played in college at West Virginia before going undrafted in the NBA. His coaching career started out with Glenville State before he made his way to the Maine Red Claws as an assistant in 2016. Mazzulla has been with the Celtics since 2019, so he’s seen his fair share of turbulence with the organization.
Mazzulla likely faces the gigantic task of navigating what’s turning into a whirlwind of a season. With injuries to key players like Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams III in addition to what’s been reported about Udoka, there will be a lot of non-basketball storylines for Mazzulla to lead the team through.
A few months ago, Ime Udoka had nothing but positive things to share in a Sports Illustrated story on Mazzulla:
I talked to everybody in the organization when I got hired, players included, and he got glowing reviews. I didn’t know much about him going into it, but I take the players’ opinions at a high value, and he was a guy that was a consensus yes.
Additionally, Jayson Tatum added to the praise:
I love Joe. I think just being around him for the last, I think this is his third year, maybe second or third year, you can tell how passionate he is about the guys and his craft. And he’s gotten so much more knowledgeable, and more detailed, and more vocal and more comfortable in his role as a coach. You’ve seen the growth from his first year, and he’s helped me out tremendously as a player and a person. So, (I) can’t say enough good things about Joe, and everybody appreciates what he brings to this team, and I’m glad that we have him.
We’re still waiting for further details on Udoka’s suspension, but in the meantime, it’s clear that if Mazzulla does indeed need to step into the role, at least he has the backing and confidence of those in the organization.