Celtics player Stevens believes in interim coach Joe Mazzola

Stevens: Temporary C coach Mazola is ‘exceptionally sharp and talented’

Brad Stevens had a tough 36 hours as head of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics.

Thursday began with a surprising report from ESPN’s Wojnarowski that his team’s coach, Ime Udoka, had violated team policy by having an intimate relationship with a franchise employee. By the end of the day, his team was without a coach for the following season as Odoka was suspended throughout the 2022-23 season.

The next man is former WVU star and current Celtics assistant Joe Mazzulla. A relative newcomer to the staff, Mazzola joined Boston in 2019 after leading the Vermont Division II for two seasons.

Fortunately for Stevens, it looks like Mazzulla might be the bright spot in an otherwise dark situation for the franchise.

“Joe will take charge, and as you know, this is not an easy timing for him or the rest of the staff,” Stevens said Friday.

Mazzola took over as interim coach just five days before his training camp ended and 10 days before his first pre-season game against the Hornets. Stevens has confidence in the 34-year-old due to his experience with the team over the past three seasons.

In addition to his time on the bench at Udoka, Mazzulla has some coaching experience. In 2021, he was named coach of the Boston unit in the NBA Summer League. Help lead the team to the championship game.

“He is an exceptionally intelligent and talented person, and I deeply believe in him and his ability to lead people, his ability to motivate a room to stand behind him, his ability to be impressed, to organize and to understand everything that comes with managing a team,” Stevens said.

In addition to Mazzulla, he has a group of assistants that Stevens feels good about.

There are high expectations heading into this season. Led by two of the NBA’s brightest young stars Jason Tatum and Jaylene Brown, the Celtics aim to improve their 2021-22 run to the NBA Finals and re-championship.

Odoka’s suspension throws an unexpected wrench into this dream shortly before the season, but Stevens said his group is up to the challenge.

“They’re a really good group and they’re going to need to work together and they’re really going to need to support each other,” Stevens said. “And I believe in leading Joe and once again, with each of them, bringing their strength to the table. I think this is going to be an incredible challenge, but I’m really confident in the team and the coaching staff that will be on the field on Tuesday. It wasn’t what we expected to happen, but I am very confident. So “.

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