New Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla worked his way up through hoops in West Virginia
Joe Mazzulla’s only previous head coaching experience was at Fairmont State, a D2 program in West Virginia.
He had success there – leading the school to back-to-back 20-win seasons and an NCAA Tournament berth.
But still, it’s a different world taking a team to the D2 tournament, and coaching the Boston Celtics.
“In moments like this, you have to stay emphatic, poised and focused on the most important thing — making sure the players and myself are on the same page,” Mazzulla told reporters at the team’s annual media day.
Boston made the NBA Finals last season under Ime Udoka, who was given a season-long suspension after an investigation determined that he’d been involved in a consensual relationship with a team staffer.
Mazzulla, 34, had been on the Celtics’ staff since 2019.
As a 6’2” guard at West Virginia, he was a team captain on the 2010 Mountaineers team that advanced to the Final Four, scoring 17 points in WVU’s upset of Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
He also had two arrests on his record as an undergrad. In 2008, Mazzulla was charged with underage drinking and fighting with police at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game, and in 2009, Mazzulla was arrested for domestic battery after he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck at a Morgantown bar.
“I’ve made mistakes,” Mazzulla said. “I’m not perfect. I’ve hurt people and I’ve had to use the situations I’ve put myself in as a younger man to become a better person.”
His coaching odyssey took him to Glenville State, Fairmont State and the Maine Red Claws of the NBA G League as an assistant, then the two-year stint as the head coach back at Fairmont State, before landing the C’s job on the staff of Brad Stevens, who is now the team’s president of basketball operations.
And now, he’s the team’s head coach, and if it’s not enough to be the 34-year-old head coach of one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, the job also comes with NBA Finals expectations after last year’s run.
Count UVA hoops alum Malcolm Brogdon, acquired by the Celtics in a trade in the offseason aimed at boosting the team’s title chances, among those impressed with the rookie coach.
“He’s honestly an incredibly impressive guy,” Brogdon said. “Joe, I think, is only 34 years old, but he’s incredibly disciplined. He’s a guy that’s paying attention to everything. He’s a guy that’s incredibly locked in and intelligent. I’ve heard from the players’ perspective, they love him. His ability to put together scouts, I heard against Miami and against a few teams last year in the playoffs, were brilliant. He’s gotten that reputation around the league as well, as I’ve talked to people. I think he’s a guy that’s ready for this opportunity and is going to grab it.”