Ime Udoka Suspension: Celtics Name Joe Mazzulla Interim Head Coach; Brad Stevens had no intention of intervening again


Of Boston Celtics suspension head coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season due to an “inappropriate, intimate and consensual relationship” with a female staff member, the team has appointed assistant Joe Mazzulla as interim head coach for the season, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens confirmed in a team press conference Friday.

Stevens said there was “absolutely no” consideration that he would step in and coach the team, and that he has full confidence in Mazulla.

“He’s an exceptionally sharp and talented person,” Stevens said. “Joe is the best choice to” [take over] by a long way. As you go through the whole process, it all touches you, but we have the best people to do that, and Joe is the best person to do that in our organization.”

Mazzulla has been an assistant to the Celtics since 2019, joining the staff after serving as the head coach of the Fairmont State men’s basketball team and holding a 43-17 record over his two seasons. Before that, he was an assistant at Glenville State. In addition to his collegiate coaching career, Mazzulla also served as an assistant for the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics G League-affiliated team.

Although Mazzulla does not have much coaching experience at a professional level, he is respected in the Celtics organization.

“I talked to everyone in the organization when I was hired, including players, and [Mazzulla] received rave reviews. Little did I know he was going in. I value the players’ opinions very much,” Udoka said in June via NBC Sports Boston. “He was a man that there was a consensus ‘yes’. Someone they all worked closely with, believed in and understood his positive sides.”

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Jayson Tatum has also spoken highly of Mazzulla since joining the team.

“He has helped me a lot as a player and as a person,” Tatum said. “I can’t say enough good things about Joe. Everyone appreciates him, what he brings to this team. I’m glad we have him.”

However, Mazzulla comes with some luggage of his own, as he was arrested on charges of domestic battery when he was a member of the West Virginia men’s basketball team in 2009. Mazzulla allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck in a bar in Morgantown, West Virginia, and was suspended indefinitely by the team. The year before, he was charged with underage drinking and aggravated assault while attending a Pittsburgh Pirates game.

“When we considered hiring him as an assistant, I really went through the incidents during his studies,” Stevens said. “I’ll tell you this: I believe strongly in Joe’s substance as a person. I believe strongly – and he will tell you that he’s been very open with me about how those moments affected him in any way. You can see it in the way he behaves You see it for a long time We’ve had years to get to know him, he’s been with us for three years.

“You’ve probably seen articles written around that time that I read three years ago before hiring him as an assistant. I’m convinced that shaped him into who he is today in a very, very good way. first to tell you he’s 110 percent responsible for that, and I’ll be the first to tell you I believe in him.”

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Between the news of Udoka and Mazzulla possibly stepping in as interim head coach, the Celtics are sure to have a lot of questions to answer in the days leading up to media day and training camp. Beyond that, with Udoka moving away from the team and a new head coach stepping in, there will certainly be an adjustment period for a Celtics team that has championship aspirations heading into the season.