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It might have just been a single season, but to us, it felt like a year of our lives

A lot can change in a year, although sometimes not in the way we expect.

Golden State Warriors Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Around the time the Boston Celtics suspended Ime Udoka, my daughter was getting ready for her first year of high school. As a youngish parent (I was 23 when she was born, and I’m 35 now), I can still remember my first day at high school, so relating to the nerves my daughter was feeling came easy.

“Be yourself,’” my wife and I encouraged her. “Don’t change who you are to fit in with the crowd.” “Ask yourself if you agree with what people are saying or doing before you choose to join in with them.” The advice felt like a download of valuable information I wish I had known on my first day. I was excited to pass it on to her.

Around the same time, the Celtics had suspended Ime Udoka and Joe Mazzulla was named the interim head coach. So, it was also fairly easy to envision the emotional battle Mazzulla was going through after being thrust into a new role, too. It wasn’t exactly starting in high school, but it must have been a difficult transition.

That’s what we do, right? We find personal experiences to make sports relatable and then try to contextualize the differences and their meanings from there. The first month or so of my daughter’s high school experience didn’t go according to plan. She had made friends, but was learning the lesson that not everybody is who they project themselves to be, especially at this age. We had a few days where she came home tearful and shared how she was struggling to find “her crowd.”

My daughter, like me, tends to walk her own path. She has her interests and is unapologetic about them — which is exactly how she’s been raised. “You only live life once.” “Don’t compromise what makes you happy so that you fit in with a specific group of people or fall into a predefined category within the playground.” “Be you.” “Be authentic.” “Be compassionate. Everything else will fall into place.”

I’ve seen a similar approach from Joe Mazzulla this year, even if, at times, I haven’t agreed with his decisions or demeanor when watching his press conferences. It’s clear that Mazzulla also walks his own path. I can relate to that. I can respect that. No, I do respect that.

I can see similarities between the Celtics' opening months of the season and my daughter's first month at high school, but it the Celtics who weren’t what they projected themselves to be. They had a hot start, and then suddenly, the rug was pulled from underneath them, and we began to question if they were struggling under an offense-heavy system. They stuck together and fought their way through a rough patch, only to turn the corner and become a reliable unit again.

My wife and I stuck by our daughter, and now, she has multiple friend groups with different interests that she can split her time. She wakes up happy, goes to school happy, comes home happy, and is thriving in her classes. Unity and support are two powerful aspects of the human experience, knowing that someone not only believes in you, but is also willing to go to bat for you can be both freeing and empowering.

We’ve seen and heard enough from both Mazzulla and the Celtics roster to believe that Boston’s head coach and his players share a mutual respect and togetherness. During the postseason when the media spotlight was shining brightly on Mazzulla, multiple guys spoke out in his defense.

However, there is a difference between walking your own path and being unopen to change. Stubbornness can be both an endearing quality and somebody’s eventual downfall — it all depends on the situation. That’s something I’ve tried to instill in my daughter, that while it’s ok to stand your ground, it’s important to understand the context of the situation you find yourself in.

In England, we don’t have semesters. Instead, we call them “terms.” There are three terms in total: autumn, winter, and spring. Each term is split into 12-week periods, with a one or two-week break every six weeks or so. At my daughter’s school, they have two assessments a year: one in the first few weeks and one in the last few weeks.

For the Celtics, the playoffs were their assessment, a chance to see what their roster excelled at and where there were potential holes in their offensive and defensive system. The good news is we found areas of weakness that can be improved. The bad news is they were craters rather than potholes. Joe Mazzulla passed some tests and failed others, and while we wait for Brad Stevens to provide the metaphorical report card detailing what improvements need to be made, our speculations will run amok.

That’s kind of how my daughter approaches these assessments at school. She gives her best, but spends the following week speculating as to her results, knowing that nothing is going to change them. All she can hope for is that her hard work is recognized, and she continues to improve with every passing year.

The same can be said for the Celtics. For all the dissecting and revisionist history we’re going to put ourselves through in the coming months, nothing will change the fact that they fell short in the Eastern Conference Finals. All we can do is hope that they learned from the experience and will come back stronger because of it. Whether the current core is here or not will remain to be seen.

This past year, I’ve watched my daughter go from a shy sixth grader into a confident and popular seventh grader (high school in England runs 7th grade to 11th, and college runs 12th to 13th.) Her journey wasn’t without its bumps, and many more will surely come in time. However, without those knocks and setbacks, she would never have learned those lessons and never grown as a person or a student.

Now, as she prepares for the final six weeks of the school year, I will begin to look forward to her journey as an eighth grader. And, for the majority of her second-year journey in high school, I, like all of you, will be following along with the Celtics, praying that they, too, have grown from the pitfalls of the previous years and that their evolution continues to take place before our eyes.

After all, what good is ruing the past, when you can live to be excited for the future.

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