Joe Mazzulla, the interim head coach of the Boston Celtics, has been the talk of the town since the start of the 2022-23 National Basketball Association season. He led the Celtics to an impressive 3-0 record in the first week and has been credited for his bold and unique coaching decisions. Being a head coach for a notable franchise like the Celtics can lead to greater attention in the public eye. Mazzulla has been no exception, and his controversial past has been a topic of major discussion leading into the season. 

On April 25, 2009, the West Virginia University basketball team announced an indefinite suspension of guard Joe Mazzulla. Mazzulla was charged with domestic battery after allegedly assaulting a women he lived with. In August of 2010, not long after his return to basketball-related activities, Mazzulla was cited for public urination. Combined with another case of underage drinking and scuffling with police, Joe Mazzulla was involved in a total of three arrests during his college basketball career. It has been twelve years since Mazzulla graduated, but he has constantly reflected upon and learned from these incidents. 

“I’ve made mistakes; I’m not perfect,” Mazzulla said on the Celtics’ media day earlier this month. He answered questions regarding his past with a firm tone, taking accountability for his  behavior and looking forward to his new endeavors. Now playing a very different role as the head coach of one of the most competitive teams in the NBA, Mazzulla admitted that he “didn’t have an identity at a certain point of [his] life” but has since found his identity through “his faith” and “his purpose.” Shaping a newfound “identity” has become Mazzulla’s answer to setbacks and controversies. According to Mazzulla, it is time for him and his fellow Celtics to figure out “what worked well, what didn’t,” and how to move forward as they face complex challenges this season, both on and off the court. For Mazzulla, this season is less about winning and more about “healing” and “growth.” The Celtics, unfortunately, need a lot of space to grow, and they have many frustrations to heal from. However, they are lucky to have Mazzulla and his experience, moving on from his past troubles, on their side. 

Despite Mazzulla’s troublesome past, Wyc Grousbeck, co-owner of the Boston Celtics, found that the selection of the interim head coach was an easy choice to make. The mastermind behind such a successful decision was Brad Stevens the current general manager, and former Celtics’ head coach. Stevens recruited Mazzulla in 2019 after witnessing his obsession with basketball. Having previous experience working together, Stevens described Mazzulla as “an exceptionally sharp and talented person” during a press conference this September. Wyc trusted Stevens when he suggested Mazzulla, and Stevens trusts Mazzulla’s leadership during this crucial period for the Celtics. 

“I think he’s been great. Joe is tough as nails,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown shared after the opening-night victory. “Even in the midst of everything, all the turmoil, you could look into his eyes [and] see he was ready.” As the youngest Head Coach in the NBA, Mazzulla has gained total trust and support from his fellow Celtics. “You could always see that Joe had all the makings of becoming a head coach someday,” All-Star small forward Jayson Tatum said. Joe Mazzulla has undoubtedly started his 2022-23 in a successful fashion. Reports from credible sources including Adrian “Woj” Wojnarowski have indicated the possibility of Mazzulla becoming the official, long-term head coach for the Boston Celtics. Only time will tell whether such rumors will eventually come to fruition or not. 

Life is like basketball in a lot of ways. No one can turn back the clock and correct the mistakes they have made. It takes constant reflection and improvement to stay in the game, and it takes a significant amount of trust in everyone you work with to make things work. Challenged by setbacks during the offseason and expected to top the league, Mazzulla and the Celtics will look to heal from the past and grow into a stronger team.