Excuse this Michigan alum just days before the national championship game, but Joe Mazzulla is sounding a lot like the legend Bo Schembechler.
After a humbling loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, returning home for a one-game visit and a subsequent wire-to-wire 126-97 blowout of the Jazz, the Celtics head coach wouldn’t talk about how great a single player was or prop up something he changed in the gameplan.
“The difference this year is we get out of it quicker,” Mazzulla said about his team’s ability to bounce back compared to years past. “You see it all the time in the NBA. Blown leads, difficult times, teams struggle, teams let a team go on a 15-0 run or whatever the case may be. I think we’re just not staying in that space longer. It’s there. We acknowledge it and we move on as fast as we can. That’s the key.”
It’s not exactly “the team, the team, the team,” but if Mazzulla Ball has been integral to the Celtics’ success, Mazzulla Mentality deserves just as much credit.
In the initial results of the first round of All-Star voting, all five starters we’re featured in the top-10 of both the frontcourt and backcourt groupings. The team’s PR department gave out post-holiday gifts to the media before the Jazz game not highlighting a single player out, but rather promoting the team as a group.
“I don’t want to diminish how important the individual is to the team and the opportunity that they have and the legacy of making an All-Star brings. We shouldn’t diminish that at all,” Mazzulla said. ”Individual accolades are important. It takes good individuals to be part of a team and I think all five of them are deserving to be an All-Star.”
That infectious selflessness has been a common theme throughout 27-7 start of the regular season. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have sung the praises of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday after Boston acquired them in the offseason. The mutual admiration society has flowed the opposite direction, too. Last week, it was Derrick White getting all the love from his teammates.
Mazzulla consistently stresses that if everybody’s making the right basketball decision and remains selfless in their intentions to make the team better, they’ll keep winning.
“We’re a better team when everyone is a threat and he can be a better player when he uses everyone around him. It actually makes his job easier.” Mazzulla said about Tatum after he stuffed the stat sheet with 30-9-5 in under 25 minutes against Utah. However, Mazzulla continued to elevate the group as a whole. “That’s what the guys are recognizing: the guy next to you is going to make your job easier. That’s why we’re a good team. We continue to trust that. We continue to grow as a team.”
And even with his own success, Mazzulla deflected the attention. On Thursday, he was named the Eastern Conference’s Coach of the Month after Boston went an impressive 12-2 in December.
“In the past, I think I would have said, ‘no,’” Mazzulla said when asked if he cared about his Coach of the Month honor. “But I think it’s a testament to what we’re building and what we’re creating. It’s a testament to the staff. I wish they would change it to ‘Staff of the Month’ because I’m not doing it by myself. I’m not the one controlling the scouts. I’m not the one making the edits. I’m not the one doing the matchups during the game or coming up with lineup suggestions. If the players don’t let me coach them, then I’m not really a good coach. It’s just a testament to the environment we’re creating. It does mean something to me because it shows what we’re doing is paying off.”
We're not even midway through the regular season, but it sure does feel like "those who stay will be champions."