PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Boston Celtics will have a new face leading the team for the 2022-23 season, and it’s one that Rhode Islanders may be familiar with.
Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla has been named the interim head coach following Ime Udoka’s suspension, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and GM Brad Stevens announced Friday morning.
The Celtics suspended Udoka for the entire upcoming season for violating team policy, and his future with the organization is up in the air for the time being.
The team has not specified which team policies Udoka violated. However, ESPN is reporting that Udoka allegedly had an intimate and consensual relationship with a female member of the team’s staff. The relationship was considered a violation of the organization’s guidelines.
Mazzulla, a Johnston native and former basketball star at Bishop Hendricken, has been with the team since 2019. Stevens said Mazzulla is the best person in the organization to take over the head coaching duties.
“He’s an exceptionally sharp, talented person, and I believe strongly in him and his ability to lead people,” Stevens said.
“He is just passionate,” Grousbeck added. “He is just filled with energy and passion, and thinking about other people, and teamwork together.”
Watch: Celtics GM, owner discuss Mazzulla (story continues below)
Hendricken basketball coach Jamal Gomes told 12 News that Mazzulla is made for this job, recalling a conversation he had with him a few years ago regarding his aspirations.
“He told me, ‘Coach, my number one goal is to make it to the NBA, to become a coach and eventually become a head coach, and I’m going to do everything I can and everything in my power to get there,'” Gomes recalled.
Mazzulla led the Hawks to three consecutive state titles (2004, 2005, 2006) and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in his final two seasons as a junior and senior.
Watch: Interview with Bishop Hendricken’s Jamal Gomes (story continues below)
Following his days at Hendricken, he played at West Virginia University from 2006-2011. He was a key piece on the Mountaineers’ 2010 Final Four team.
Since his playing days, Mazzulla has risen through the coaching ranks in both the collegiate and professional levels. He began his career as an assistant coach at Division II Glenville State (WV) in 2011.
Mazzulla left Glenville State in 2013 to join Division II Fairmont State (WV) as an assistant coach until 2016. He spent the 2016-17 season with the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ development team, before being selected by Brad Stevens to join his staff in Boston.
His first head coaching gig came back at Fairmont State from 2017-19 where he took the Falcons to the NCAA Tournament and finished with a 43-17 record in two years.
When Stevens moved to the front office role prior to the 2021-22 season, Udoka said he decided to keep Mazzulla on staff because of the rave reviews he heard.
“I talked to everybody in the organization when I got hired, players included, and [Mazzulla] got glowing reviews,” Udoka said in June during the team’s NBA Finals appearance. “I didn’t know much about him going into it. I take the players’ opinions at high value.”
Superstar Jayson Tatum also gushed about Mazzulla.
“I love Joe,” Tatum said in June. “I think just being around him … you could tell how passionate he is about the guys and his craft. He’s gotten so much more knowledgeable, more detailed, just vocal. More comfortable in his role as a coach. You’ve seen a growth from his first year.”
Tatum continued: “He’s helped me out tremendously as a player and as a person. I can’t say enough good things about Joe. Everybody appreciates him, what he brings to this team. I’m glad that we have him.”