Mazzulla makes history

Posted 6/19/24

The Boston Celtics, led by Johnston’s own Joe Mazzulla, regained the top spot in NBA championships won when they beat Dallas on Monday night for their 18th.

There is so much to chew on …

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Mazzulla makes history


The Boston Celtics, led by Johnston’s own Joe Mazzulla, regained the top spot in NBA championships won when they beat Dallas on Monday night for their 18th.

There is so much to chew on with this story, but of course, let’s begin with Mazzulla.

When he was hired as the team’s interim coach and later elevated to permanent coach, it raised a few eyebrows. He was young, green, and had limited coaching experience. I would be lying if I said I was not one of those people that was holding their breath.

The one thing that was constant was his IQ. He was long gone from Rhode Island when I arrived in 2018, but even before he was hired in Boston, I would always hear stories about how he was on his way to becoming another great coach, following in the footsteps of his father, Dan, who I did get the pleasure of covering prior to his passing.

When national outlets openly questioned the Celtics’ front office, the team never wavered and always gave Joe its full support. His first season was a success as he led the team to the conference finals. However, he was not free from scrutiny and was often the target of criticism when analysts broke down the team’s playoff exit to the Miami Heat.

I am not a basketball coach, so there are things that go on during the game that I miss. When seeing the breakdowns of some of his mistakes his rookie year, I could see the points being made, whether it was questionable timeouts that he used, struggling with in-game adjustments, and so on. Although he performed better than your standard rookie head coach, there were a few areas that needed to be cleaned up.

This season, he did just that and had total control of this roster. The Celtics were prepared every single game in the playoffs, even during the losses, and there was not one moment in which Mazzulla dropped the ball. His brilliance as a coach matched the brilliance of his talented roster.

Which brings me to my next point. Sometimes, having a surplus of talent is not the blessing that it may seem to be.

The team made some big roster changes this season, including sending guys like Marcus Smart, Robert Williams and Grant Williams out the door and welcoming in Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis. Adding those two guys to a roster that already featured Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and Al Horford, it was an embarrassment of riches.

That said, basketball is quickly becoming a position-less game. If a coach just throws out a lineup based strictly on position, they are going to fall behind in today’s game. The NBA is more advanced, more creative than ever and team’s need to find new ways of attacking opponents on a nightly basis.

Sure, the Celtics had a little bit of everything with all that talent and skill, but Mazzulla did a masterful job of keeping things organized, consistent, and beating teams in ways that can’t be summed up with just plug-and-play schemes. That’s not even mentioning Mazzulla needing to manage players’ egos and the high pressure and expectations put on them. Boston was considered the betting favorite for much of the season, but the Celtics played like they were underdogs.

What is exciting to think about is what the future holds for Mazzulla and this team. Nearly the entire squad will be back next year, and Tatum, Brown, Porzingis and Holiday are all slated to return the following season.

Although it is never advisable to bank on a three-peat, this core is strong enough to do it. Tatum and Brown are still in their 20s, too, so they will continue to grow alongside Mazzulla. We could be looking at the next great NBA dynasty, with a Rhode Island native being in the center of it all.

It has been a ton of fun covering Rhode Island sports these past six years, much because of the run that our locals have enjoyed on the national stage. Mazzulla became a championship-winning coach, Rocco Baldelli was hired by the Minnesota Twins, Kwity Paye was drafted in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts, Mike King reached the Big Leagues with the Yankees and is now with the Padres, Will Blackmon has enjoyed success post-retirement. There is so much to be excited about as a Rhode Island sports fan.

pitch, Mazzulla, Celtics


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