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Joe Mazzulla: Who is the Boston Celtics’ Interim Coach?

Big East basketball fans know the name. Casual NBA fans might be less familiar. It’s time to meet the likely 2022-23 Celtics head coach.

As the Ime Udoka saga continues to unfold, there’s a lot we don’t know. And the more we learn, the more questions we seem to have.

But as the Boston Celtics head coach faces down a season-long suspension through June 30 and an uncertain future to follow, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and later confirmed by the Celtics themselves, we can get to know his replacement: Joe Mazzulla.

Mazzulla has been with the Celtics as an assistant since 2019, but has over a decade of basketball coaching experience overall that started right after graduation his college graduation.

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Joe Mazzulla Coaching Experience

2011-13: Glenville State (D-II) assistant
2013-16: Fairmont State (D-II) assistant
2016-17: Maine Red Claws assistant
2017-19: Fairmont State head coach
2019-present: Boston Celtics assistant

It’s not the traditional route to NBA head coach, that’s for sure. But Mazzulla does check the boxes you want for someone who is suddenly put in charge of a pro team weeks before the season starts. For one thing, he’s been in the organization for three years, so he’s familiar with the personnel. Only Robert Williams, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown have been with the team for longer.

He’s also won in the only head coach position he’s ever held, leading Fairmont State to a pair of 20-plus-win seasons and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2019. In his one year in Maine, the Red Claws on their division as well.

It all adds up to someone who NBA officials see as a future head coach in the league. Remember: he was a finalist for the Utah Jazz head coaching job just this offseason.

Controversies

We would be remiss if we did not note that Mazzulla comes with his share of off-the-court issues as well. Following a 2008 incident at a Pittsburgh Pirates game, the Mountaineer guard pled guilty to underage drinking, hindering apprehension, and aggravated assault. In 2009, he was charged with domestic battery after allegedly grabbing a woman by the neck at a Morgantown bar. Yes, both these incidents were well over a decade ago, but they are worth noting nonetheless. Mazzulla will and should have to answer questions about them in the preseason.

At West Virginia

Joe Mazzulla drives downcourt against Nolan Smith at the Final Four (Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Chances are you don’t remember Joe Mazzulla for his experience coaching Division II basketball (no disrespect to Glenville or Fairmont). College hoops fans probably know him better as a mainstay on some of the greatest West Virginia Mountaineers teams in recent program history.

During Mazzulla’s tenure at WVU, the Mountaineers won the NIT before reaching the NCAA Tournament three straight years, culminating with the program’s first Final Four appearance in half a century in 2010. Mazzulla was a role player on most of those teams, though his 2009 season was cut short due to injury. His crowning personal achievement came in the team’s upset win over Duke in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, where he nearly amassed a triple-double (13 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists).

Among Big East fans, Mazzulla became the typical “guy who’s been in college for a decade” player. Not an All-American, but a pesky contributor every year with the team. The kind of player you don’t want to face — even if he doesn’t fill the stat sheet.

The fans in Boston tend to like a bit of that.

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