Wyc Grousbeck: Hiring Interim Coach Joe Mazzulla ‘Was Never in Question’

Wyc Grousbeck: Hiring Interim Coach Joe Mazzulla 'Was Never in Question'

Just being the NBA’s second-youngest head coach of all-time, interim coach Joe Mazzulla has a lot of pressure on him in his first season for the Boston Celtics. With the campaign that Coach Ime Udoka had last year getting the organization to the NBA Finals, Mazzulla has some big shoes to fill, considering he is working with the same roster with a few more additions. 

As Boston weathered the storm behind their decision to suspend Udoka for violating team policy, team owner Wyc Grousbeck said that promoting Mazzulla “was never in question.”

“But during those talks, the one part that was never in question was who would step in if it wasn’t going to be Ime,” co-owner Wyc Grousbeck told the Boston Globe. “[Stevens] put his mark on that when he said, ‘I stand by this recommendation and feel extremely strongly about Joe.’”

The 34-year-old is undoubtedly a mastermind at what he does. He went from being a contributor to West Virginia’s 2010 Final Four team and carving out an overseas career to catching the coaching bug while helping other professional players work out. That realization led him to coach at D2 Glenville State, where he constantly studied film and searched for unique strategies and drills.

By 2013, he became an assistant coach at Fairmont State, becoming a player development guy as he designed workouts programs for each player in the program. Mazzulla then became an assistant on the Boston G League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, where he caught the eye of former team executive Danny Ainge. After one season, he returned to Fairmont as their head coach from 2017-2019.

“Some coaches know X’s and O’s, and some are really good with building relationships, but very few can do both,” former Red Claws head coach Scott Morrison said. “Joe showed he could do both right out of the gate.”

As the leader of Fairmont, Mazzulla became legendary for his long hours watching game film, his knowledge of the college basketball rulebook, and for holding himself accountable and putting himself through a military-style workout for being one minute late to a workout. That obsessiveness led to Stevens hiring him as an assistant in 2019.

“We always knew Joe was too good to be at a Division 2 college,” former Fairmont forward Vince Franklin said. “His brain was just working way too much for that.”

When Ime Udoka was suspended for the 2022-23 season, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens wasted no time promoting Mazzulla to interim coach. As Boston figured out what they would do regarding Udoka, team owner Wyc Grousbeck said that promoting Mazzula “was never in question.” That confidence in Mazzulla came from Stevens witnessing Mazzulla’s competitive fire, basketball resume, and maniacal preparation

“He just told me he believed in me and that I was ready,” Mazzulla said. “And I just said, ‘Let’s do it.’

The Celtics, who are 3-1 on the season, are back in action on Friday when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden.

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