The Celtics announced the suspension of make udoka for the entire 2022-23 season on Thursday night, and assistant coach Joe Mazzulla is reportedly on the cusp of a big opportunity.
Udoka – who has come under fire from the organization for his role in an “intimate, consensual” relationship with a team staff – is reportedly not set to step down. However, it is expected that Mazzulla will take over the position of interim head coach in his absence.
Here are four things you should know about Mazzulla.
Mazzulla is also a former basketball star
Like Udoka, Mazzulla can draw on a lot of playing experience. Mazzulla, a Rhode Island native, attended Bishop Hendricken, where he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2018. The Hawks won three state championships during Mazzulla’s career, and he won the third by burying a crucial jumper in the closing seconds.
Mazulla attended West Virginia, where he helped the Mountaineers win the NIT tournament as a freshman. As a sophomore, Mazzulla scored 13 points to help West Virginia to an upset second-round victory over Duke of the NCAA tournament. He pursued foreign opportunities after university, but never found a good match.
Mazulla is a remnant of Brad Stevens
When Udoka arrived, he revamped the Celtics’ assistant coaching staff, letting go of longtime assistants like Jay Larranaga and Scott Morrison, while bringing in a host of newcomers, including Will Hardy, Damon Stoudamire, Aaron Miles and Ben Sullivan.
However, two remnants remained: Tony Dobbins (who has a good relationship with Jaylen Brown) and Mazzulla. Mazzulla arrived in 2019 and immediately attracted attention for his work with Celtics rookie Romeo Langford, whose shot needed work. Mazzulla tied a ping pong paddle to Langford’s hand, trying to keep his thumb off the ball. For the rest of the season, Mazzulla worked with and helped develop Langford. The 22-year-old guard was traded in the deal to take over Derrick White last season, but Mazzulla will remain with the team.
Mazulla struggled with legal troubles in college
Mazulla was indicted three times in college. In 2008, he was charged with underage drinking and fighting with the police during a pirate match. In 2010, he was subpoenaed for public urination. In 2009, he reportedly grabbed a woman by the neck in a bar, causing him to be banned. All three incidents were reportedly related to alcohol, and Mazzulla’s father Dan later told the… Times West Virginia that his son was being treated.
In 2010, Dan Mazzulla – who passed away in April 2020 – told the New York Times that Mazzulla had been dealing with “mood swings and depression.”
“When you see me play and the passion and emotion I play with because I haven’t been able to play for so long, I didn’t know where to put that,” Joe Mazulla said at the time. “I couldn’t find an identity and couldn’t find an outlet.”
Mazzulla has not been charged since those incidents. In March 2010, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins told the… New York Times that Mazzulla’s injuries left him emotionally upset.
“Joe was having a hard time,” Huggins said. “He had a hard time. Not knowing if you’re going to play again and go to rehab, he was a bit screwed up. Anyone who cares about him as much as he cares about him would have been.”
Mazulla has become a respected and experienced assistant
When the Jazz went on their coaching quest to replace Quin Snyder this offseason, they interviewed: two Celtics assistants: Will Hardy and Mazzulla. Hardy – considered a rising star in coaching circles – got the job, but new Jazz director Danny Ainge took a closer look at Mazzulla while he was in Boston and also brought him in for an interview.
Mazzulla’s coaching experience started in the ranks of the university. His first job came as an assistant at Glenville State, an NCAA Division II school. Two years later, he joined Fairmont State as an assistant. After an assistant appearance with the then Maine Red Claws (now the Maine Celtics), Mazzulla returned to Fairmont State for the 2016-17 season as their head coach, taking the school to a 43-17 record over two seasons. In his sophomore year, he led the Falcons to the NCAA Division II tournament.
Two years after Mazzulla joined Fairmont State, Brad Stevens brought him back on board as an assistant when Purdue hired Micah Shrewsberry as an associate head coach.
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