The Ime Udoka scandal was one that rocked the entire Boston Celtics organization in the offseason. Coming off an incredible run to the NBA Finals in 2022, no one could have foreseen such a thing.
After Udoka’s supposed affair with a staff member led to his year-long suspension, uncertainty flooded throughout the organization. So many questions came about.
How was a team that was two wins shy of a championship supposed to carry on? Who would take the reins? Who would keep the ship steady?
As it turns out, Joe Mazzulla was the answer to all those questions. Mazzula had been an assistant on the Celtics coaching staff since 2019. He had little experience as a head coach coming into the season.
Mazzulla’s only head coaching experience was a two year run in the NCAA at Division II Fairmont State. Even in terms of assistant experience, Mazzulla had only been a coaxh in the NBA for three years.
Despite the apparent lack of experience, Mazzulla has exceeded every expectation. The young coach has silenced any doubt and has kept the Boston Celtics on a championship course.
The team currently possesses an NBA best 42-17 record. He’s done such a great job that he’s been named an NBA All-Star Game head coach. Mazzulla took the reigns amid controversy and has done as great a job as you could really ever ask for.
So it’s fitting then that Boston has decided to reward Mazzulla for his excellent work. On Thursday, the Celtics announced that Mazzulla was officially named the 19th head coach in the team’s history.
Joe Mazzulla is officially the 19th Head Coach in franchise history 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 pic.twitter.com/LMcTLS1u0m— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 16, 2023
Mazzulla had been operating all year on the “interim” head coaching tag. The team has also signed him to an extension, although the details of said extension have yet to be revealed.
This announcement of course means that Ime Udoka’s days in Boston are finished. After one spectacular season as the team’s head coach, Udoka is done. I don’t think anyone could have seen that coming after the Finals.
Boston made the right decision here. They did right by Joe Mazzulla. As they absolutely should have. There aren’t many veteran coaches who could have stepped into this difficult situation and handled it as gracefully as Mazzulla has.
When you consider his age and lack of experience, it makes it all the more impressive. Many people will point to the Celtics’ stacked roster as the reason why. That Mazzulla has had little to do with it.
Sure, Boston’s roster is stacked. Yes, the team is probably the deepest in the NBA. However, that doesn’t mean Mazzulla doesn’t deserve credit. No matter how many great pieces you put on the court, coaching matters. It takes a coach to make all the pieces work coherently.
Above all that, Mazzulla helped refocus the team. The team had bought into Udoka, only to have that faith crushed and ruined. They were now being asked to buy into a new coach and a new methodology. Distractions were clearly there from the beginning.
Mazzulla helped navigate the Celtics past all that.
Look, there was no way Boston was bringing Udoka back. Not after all the trouble he caused. The only possible scenario I him coming back was if Mazzulla and the team fell flat on their faces.
A season where Boston got bounced early in the playoffs or missed the playoffs entirely is the only way I saw Udoka coming back. It was the best decision to move on from him. It’s unfortunate, but Udoka made his bed. Now he’s got to lay in it. Simple as that.
By removing Mazzulla’s interim tag, a weight has been lifted off of both him and the team. There’s no more uncertainty regarding the future. This is the Celtics’ future. The focus can remain on the basketball court now.
Brad Stevens also deserves a lot of credit. He navigated this storm about as well as anyone could have. Brad the head coach was solid, but Brad the executive has been a rockstar thus far.
Time will tell if he made the right choice here. For now though, Brad has done right by Mazzulla, the team, and the fanbase as a whole. We have our coach for the foreseeable future, and I think he’s a damn good one.