Boston Celtics team owner Wyc Grousbeck wouldn’t let current interim head coach Joe Mazzulla, who at that point was still an assistant on then-head coach Ime Udoka’s staff, get away like fellow assistant Will Hardy did.
Hardy was hired by the Utah Jazz to become their next head coach following Quin Snyder’s resignation from the role, but former Celtics GM Danny Ainge — who now runs the Jazz front office as team president — wanted to poach Mazzulla as well.
Mazzulla stepped into the head coaching role following the team’s suspension of Udoka on September 21, and it’s possible the Boston Celtics owner knew he’d need someone to step into the seat considering the months-long investigation into Udoka’s conduct policy violations regarding inappropriate relationships with at least one member of the team’s staff.
Grousbeck revealed all of this during “The Greg Hill Show,” on October 19, a day after Boston beat the Philadelphia 76ers in an opening night victory at the T.D. Garden. Seemingly serious, Grousbeck let Ainge know that he didn’t appreciate being on the other side of the negotiating table to ‘trader Danny’:
"“I prevented Danny from stealing him this summer, because I told Danny I’d fly to Utah and personally strangle him if he did. You can quote that. You can take one person, an assistant, and make them a head coach, which they did with Will Hardy. Then they also wanted Mazzulla, and I was like, ‘That’s it, you’re crossing the line, and we’re not having it.’ And that was just when Joe was senior assistant with us, and now all of a sudden he’s interim head coach.”"
Who the Boston Celtics could have made interim head coach had the Jazz poached Joe Mazzulla
Without Ime Udoka and Will Hardy, Joe Mazzulla became the next man up for the Boston Celtics. President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens placed his support for the interim head coach despite a less-than-spotless-past, but who would the team have considered had Danny Ainge been successful in stealing Mazzulla away?
Well, Damon Stoudamire, Ben Sullivan, Tony Dobbins, Aaron Miles, and D.J. MacLeay were the incumbent options, but names like Frank Vogel and even Stevens himself were floated as potential options. It’s unclear how serious Stevens was considering a return, though it’s quite plausible the recently-fired Los Angeles Lakers coach would have taken the job.
Regardless, Mazzulla clearly has the respect of his players considering their effort through four preseason games and a stellar opening night performance, and he’s been running a tight ship in the Summer League the past two seasons as well. His Cs stint dates back to the 2019-20 season, which featured no Summer League slate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.