Danny Ainge drops shocking Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla-Ime Udoka take after Boston’s playoff exit

Losing in the NBA Finals a year ago and making upgrades to their roster in the offseason, the Boston Celtics looked to be the team to beat in the NBA this season. However, they were unable to get back to the Finals this season, losing in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat, which has resulted in many pointing the finger at rookie head coach Joe Mazzulla.

Taking over for Ime Udoka last summer, Mazzulla was thrown into the head coaching role in Boston with really no warning. Udoka’s dismissal from the Celtics due to a violation of team policies came as a shock to many, but Mazzulla handled himself extremely well and even coached in this year’s All-Star game.

The Celtics may have had high title aspirations, but their 34-year-old head coach should not be shouldering all the blame and former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge acknowledged this recently. Talking with Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe recently, Ainge opened up about believing in Mazzulla and that the Celtics may be better off with him over Udoka, who recently became the new head coach of the Houston Rockets.

“I work for another company now, but I’m trying to defend my friends,” Ainge old Shaughnessy. “I know Joe. I hired Joe four or five years ago to work in our G League. I still cheer for my friends. I don’t think the team quit on Joe. There was pretty good evidence they did not quit on the coach. I just think they weren’t playing well. The team’s overall confidence struggled after the comeback wins against Philly, which was really the highlight of the season.”

There has been a lot of discussion about the Celtics potentially moving on from Mazzulla due to the fact that they trailed the Heat 3-0 in the conference finals. Boston has since come out and defended their young head coach, as has Ainge despite the fact he is no longer with the organization.

“I understand something’s got to change, but knowing every one of the players like I do, it’s hard to identify,” Ainge continued. “You see Joe’s toughness and stubbornness. He’s a relentless worker. He has a passion to learn. Joe is a leader, and I think this was a difficult situation with the high expectations the team had coming in. I don’t think there’s anybody there that doesn’t believe that Joe is better than Ime  as a coach.”

In his first season as the head coach of the Celtics during the 2021-22 season, Udoka led Boston to the NBA Finals with a 51-31 record. Under Mazzulla’s leadership this year, the Celtics came up a game short of the Finals, but they posted a 57-25 record, the franchise’s best record since the 2008-09 season.

Ainge’s comments on the Celtics head coach are certainly eye-opening, especially since he currently serves as an executive for the Utah Jazz. He knows exactly what kind of coach Mazzulla is given his time with the Celtics and the Jazz even considered hiring Mazzulla over Will Hardy, both of which were assistant coaches in Boston last offseason.

Being such a young head coach that was thrown into his current situation, there is really not much to worry about in Boston. Mazzulla has paid his dues as an assistant in this league and he would not have been given the head coaching position if the Celtics did not think he was capable of succeeding, especially after the team was just in the NBA Finals.

The support Mazzulla is receiving from Ainge once again proves that the Celtics will not be making a change at their head coaching position any time soon.

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Joe Mazzulla’s Celtics future gets confirmation by Brad Stevens

Since the Boston Celtics were officially eliminated from postseason contention following their forced ouster by the Miami Heat, the subject of Joe Mazzulla’s job security has seemingly been a hot talking point. The first-year head coach showed signs of struggle throughout his inaugural season in Beantown, and both fans and media pundits alike put them on blast during the club’s recent playoff run.

However, though no official word has been made regarding his future with the organization, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported on the morning of July 1 that, from what he’s been hearing, Joe Mazzulla’s job seems to be safe for the time being.

“Not a huge surprise, but everything I’ve heard the last few days points to Joe Mazzulla being back with the Celtics next year,” Himmelsbach said of Joe Mazzulla.

President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens also chimed in on Mazzulla’s status with the organization, as he essentially confirmed that he would remain with the team heading into the 2023-24 campaign.

However, though it seems that stability is expected to remain present at the head coaching position, Joe Mazzulla’s staff is rumored to be heading toward a major overhaul, as Jay King and Jared Weiss of The Athletic report that many of his assistants could be poached by the club’s former headman Ime Udoka, who now runs the show on the sidelines with the Houston Rockets.

“Then there is the coaching staff, which is widely expected to add a veteran with head coaching experience at the very least. Some of Udoka’s hires, such as Ben Sullivan and Miles, will likely be recruited by Udoka and the Houston Rockets, but sources told The Athletic it’s too early in the process to know what will happen,” King and Weiss reported.

Despite his up-and-down inaugural season leading the charge for the Celtics, Joe Mazzulla still managed to help guide the club to their fifth Eastern Conference Finals appearance in seven seasons and came within just one win of advancing to their second straight NBA Finals before ultimately being bounced by the Heat in a do-or-die Game 7.

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1 big disconnect between Celtics players, Joe Mazzulla in 2022-23 season

The Boston Celtics reportedly were all-in on Joe Mazzulla’s leadership stype, but the roster did not agree with his shift away from a defensive identity that got the team to the NBA Finals in 2022, according to Jay King and Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

“His leadership is second to none,” a Celtics source said, via King and Weiss. “From speakers to events, he hit all the buttons to galvanize the group. Throughout the season, the things he did to call out (Jayson Tatum) and (Jaylen Brown) all the time, he was super hard on them. When they needed to be called out, he was the first to call them out. When the role players needed to be called out, he called them out too. He shot it straight how he saw it and didn’t care about how it should be done. I thought he developed great relationships with guys because of that.”

Joe Mazzulla’s approach to accountability was different from Ime Udoka’s. Ime Udoka would criticize players through the media, while Mazzulla’s approach was to save criticism behind closed doors.

In the year when the Celtics went to the finals, Robert Williams and Al Horford often started. Mazzulla went with a smaller lineup, usually starting Derrick White and Robert Williams, according to King and Weiss.

It seems likely that Mazzulla will be retained for the 2023-2024 season. The Celtics have big questions to answer otherwise. Jayson Tatum will undoubtedly be back, but will the team offer Jaylen Brown the contract he is eligible for, or will they move off of him? It will be intriguing to track the changes the Celtics make to their roster this summer.

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The demand Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown made to Joe Mazzulla late in regular season

Boston Celtics star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown may not be the team’s vocal leaders — that title belongs to Marcus Smart and Al Horford — but they are the Celtics’ two best players, and thus, their words carry weight in the locker room.

Tatum and Brown used their influence to demand a rotation shake-up from head coach Joe Mazzulla late in the regular season — specifically, they wanted forward Grant Williams back in the rotation, per a recent article from The Athletic’s Jay King and Jared Weiss:

“The coaching staff believed in Hauser’s offensive production and felt that because opponents were going out of their way to target him and abandon their own offense, his ability to hold up decently in isolation made him impactful. Mazzulla also wanted to get Hauser more experience to prepare him for the playoffs, believing Williams would be ready to go if his number was called. But the team’s veterans believed Williams would be crucial in the playoffs, so Tatum and Brown met with Mazzulla in early March to implore him to put Williams back into the rotation, team sources told The Athletic.”

Grant Williams, 24, has played four years in the NBA, all as a member of the storied Boston Celtics franchise. He averaged 8.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.4 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, and 2.4 personal fouls per game across 79 appearances this season (23 starts).

The former Tennessee star shot the ball with great accuracy from behind the three-point arc in the 2022-23 campaign — Williams’ 39.5% three-point percentage was the second-highest of his pro career.

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The major departure that left a ‘void’ in Celtics’ leadership structure

Even with the 2023 NBA Finals beginning tonight, as Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat take on Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, all eyes are on the Boston Celtics.

Perhaps even before the Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated by the Heat in the First Round, the Celtics were looked at as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

Why not? After all, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were both All-Stars and All-NBA selections. The Celtics, led by Tatum and Brown, had reached the NBA Finals just last year.

Despite the chaotic nature of Ime Udoka’s departure from Boston and the learning curve that his replacement Joe Mazzulla had to get through, the Celtics were supposed to beat the Heat. Not fall behind 3-0 and certainly not to lose in a blowout in Game 7.

Interestingly, according to The Athletic’s Jay King and Jared Weiss, “multiple team sources both on the roster and the staff said [Damon] Stoudamire’s departure to lead Georgia Tech in March left a significant void in the team’s leadership structure.”

Stoudamire, a popular player during his 13-year NBA career, “was known for having a good feel for when and how to talk to players, understand their motivations, and pull from his own experiences when making recommendations for how the team should operate.”

“It’s not like Damon had a certain power, but players really respected him,” King and Weiss report. “Joe used Damon to have a guy that’s been here that’s played that can speak to them. Damon could speak their language and no one else on the staff can do (it).”

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Ime Udoka gutting Celtics coaching staff after Heat elimination

Just when Boston Celtics fans thought it couldn’t get any worse, their former coach Ime Udoka comes in and adds insult to injury.

An already-thin Celtics coaching staff under Joe Mazzulla will reportedly be gutted further by Udoka, as he’s expected to bring in three assistants from Boston to join him on the Houston Rockets sideline, according to The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn:

According to an NBA source, assistants Ben Sullivan, Aaron Miles, and Mike Moser are expected to join Ime Udoka’s staff in Houston, leaving three or more openings on Mazzulla’s staff.

Coaching was a huge talking point during the Eastern Conference Finals as the Celtics’ neophyte play-caller in Joe Mazzulla was forced to go up against a proven winner and arguably the best coach in the league right now in Heat head honcho Erik Spoelstra.

Boston was clearly the superior side talent-wise when it came to their roster, but the inverse was true when it came to coaching. Among many strategic plays throughout the Celtics-Heat series, the most evident was Spoelstra’s implementation of zone defense, which Mazzulla’s side never truly was able to solve.

Ima Udoka’s departure and eventual move to the Rockets was just one of many that left the Celtics’ coaching staff extremely thin. Top assistant Will Hardy was poached by former Celtics exec Danny Ainge to lead the Utah Jazz. Former NBA veteran Damon Stoudamire also left to become the head coach of Georgia Tech.

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will commit to Joe Mazzulla going forward after a bittersweet comeback bid that fell short in the East Finals. But whether or not he comes back, there will be plenty of clipboards that will need new owners in Beantown.

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Al Horford addresses Celtics’ locker room controversy after Heat loss

The Boston Celtics offseason kicked off with much controversy after the loss to the Miami Heat. Right off the jump, Celtics faithful had questions about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s futures with the team. They also called for Joe Mazzulla to depart after his rookie head coaching campaign. However, veteran leader Al Horford dispelled their locker room rumors.

“We had a lot going on this year and our guys should hold our heads high because we had a lot of adversity. In that locker room, we dealt with a lot of things,” the Celtics big man said as he looked back on their season, per Josue Pavón of CLNS media.

Horford has been a steadying presence throughout Boston’s highs and lows this postseason. The Celtics had their backs against the wall multiple times in the playoffs. They faced elimination twice against the Philadelphia 76ers and delayed their playoff death thrice against the Jimmy Butler-led Heat before finally succumbing in Game 7.

“We went through ups and downs but we stuck with it. So, right now, we want solutions sometimes you gonna have to step back and look at it and that’s just not going to happen right now,” Al Horford said hinting at a complete evaluation of the Celtics’ performance for the offseason.

A lot of questions are set to be answered in the coming months as the Celtics fix these problems. One thing is certain and that is the Celtics’ hope for Banner 18 remains unwavering despite the early playoffs exit.

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Celtics: 2 reasons Boston must fire Joe Mazzulla after Game 7 debacle vs. Heat

The Boston Celtics fought hard to tie the Eastern Conference Finals series against the Miami Heat and force a Game 7, but it came up short, as Joe Mazzulla’s team suffered a 103-84 blowout loss to end the season.

Coming into the series, the Celtics were viewed as favorites to beat the Heat, and they fell down 3-0, with some terrible performances, headlined by a blowout loss in Game 3. As predicted, there is a lot of blame going around in Boston, with Jaylen Brown getting a lot of attention, but coach Joe Mazzulla is getting a lot of blame as well, and deservingly so.

There were warts that presented themselves throughout the season for the Celtics and many of them fall to Mazzulla. Because of that, the Celtics should move on and find a new coach after just one year with him at the helm. They can not waste any prime years with Jayson Tatum and presumably Jaylen Brown with a coach who is not giving them the best chance to win. Let’s get into the two reasons the Celtics should fire Joe Mazzulla.

2. Slow or unwilling to adapt

Joe Mazzulla was slow to adapt, and at time showed an unwillingness to adapt in the series loss to the Celtics. There was no time they needed to adjust more than in Game 7 against the Heat.

With Tatum injuring his ankle early on in the game, the Celtics had to shift the pressure to Brown, who did not have a good game and shot 8-23. The problem was in the utilization of Brown. In Brown’s career, he has not shown the ability to be a player where you could rely on him to score in isolation.

Giving Brown more shots was not necessarily wrong, it was just the way he was utilized. It was the exact thing that Brown has shown not to be good at. Unsurprisingly, it did not go well, and Brown turned it over eight times in the loss.

Mazzulla should have a better fallback option on offense. More should be happening off of the ball to get Brown involved, if he is going to be the main option.

There is also the component of the Celtics shooting 42 threes and making just nine of them. Some would say the players just need to make more of those shots, but that falls on coaching as well, especially knowing that the offense the Celtics were running was resulting in looks that were consistently not falling.

Mazzulla was asked after the game whether they were too reliant on shooting threes, and he said “uh, no.” That shows an unwillingness to adapt.

1. Ime Udoka fallout

The Celtics denied publicly that they never bought into Mazzulla, but when someone as relieable as Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Celtics were befuddled by the organization letting go of Ime Udoka and said he believes the team never bought into Mazzulla, the Celtics’ statements are harder to believe.

Whether or not the Celtics actually bought into Mazzulla or not, the Ime Udoka questions will always be there as long as Mazzulla is the coach. That fact is unfortunate because it is not Mazzulla’s fault, but it is reality. Fans and media members will always draw the connections with Ime Udoka and Joe Mazzulla.

A fresh start with a new coach who can bring the best out of players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would be the best move for the Celtics.

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Stephen A. Smith’s brutally honest take on Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla after Game 7 loss

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla received criticism after trailing the Miami Heat in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals 3-0. Mazzulla then received some praise after Boston made things interesting and tied the series up. Now, he’s receiving a bit of backlash following Boston’s Game 7 defeat versus Miami. However, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN believes Mazzulla deserves praise following the Celtics’ resilient effort in the series, per First Take on Twitter.

“Here’s the thing about Joe Mazzulla,” Smith said. “They (Celtics) were down 0-3 and it was inexcusable. From a talent perspective, they were considered the team with more talent. They were getting thoroughly out-played… I got that. But if we’re going to give him that criticism when he’s down 0-3, we’ve got to give him some love for coming back from 0-3.”

Mazzulla did everything he could to lead the Celtics in the NBA playoffs. Head coaches are destined to receive blame when a team doesn’t reach their expectations. Boston had their sights set on returning to the NBA Finals this season, but did not meet that goal. For a young coach though, Mazzulla did a respectable job.

The Celtics’ front office has questions to answer this offseason, Mazzulla’s future being one of them. Additionally, Boston needs to decide if they want to continue with the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown duo. Tatum and Brown have performed well alongside one another, but moving on from one of those stars is a possibility.

It will be an interesting offseason for this Celtics team following their Game 7 loss against the Heat.

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REPORT: Joe Mazzulla’s Celtics future gets eye-opening update after Game 7 dud vs. Heat

The Boston Celtics ran out of luck against the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, falling 103-84 at home.

It was a blowout, and it wasn’t pretty.

Jayson Tatum failed to overcome an ankle sprain he sustained in the first quarter, finishing the contest with 14 points on 5-13 shooting from the field as Jimmy Butler ran amok on his way to a game-high 28 points on 12-28 shooting from the field. Jaylen Brown played worse, finishing the contest with 19 points on 8-23 shooting from the field and turning the ball over a game-high eight times.

With those factors in mind, Boston may be willing to give Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla a bit more grace than a few other head coaches whose team had meltdowns in elimination games this postseason. While some are calling for Mazzulla to be replaced, signs have been pointing to that not happening.

In fact, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, “the impression… is that the Celtics and Mazzulla will be looking to elevate his bench with more assistant coaching help in the offseason. ”

Taking into account “the whirlwind fashion in which he got the main job just prior to the season following the Ime Udoka situation,” Charania ads that “Mazzulla never really got a chance to align his own coaching staff and should get a chance to do so this summer.”

Furthermore, Charania reports that Mazzulla has three years and $14 million guaranteed on his contract.

Having started his NBA career as an assistant coach with the Celtics in 2019, it’ll be interesting to see who Mazzulla handpicks to join his coaching staff. He has several years of coaching experience at the college level, particularly in Division II schools.

Though this is speculative, Youngstown State head coach Jerrod Calhoun (who Mazzulla coached under at Fairmont State) could be a particularly interesting name to watch. There have also been rumors about Frank Vogel and Stephen Silas.

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