NESN’s Keagan Stiefel, like many of us, couldn’t believe Stephen A. Smith’s reckless spewing on the February 24 edition of ESPN First Take when it comes to his opinion that the Boston Celtics promoted interim head coach Joe Mazzulla to the permanent head coach prematurely.
Smith believes that the Celtics organization should’ve waited to see if Mazzulla could make the necessary adjustments in the postseason to warrant being the full-time coach — referencing potential matchups against Mike Budenholzer and Doc Rivers as major hurdles Mazzulla has yet to clear.
Stiefel was particularly bothered by the inclusion of those two coaches as examples of whether or not Mazzulla is prepared for the role:
"“Excuse us? Those are the options Smith went with when discussing tough coaching matchups in the Eastern Conference?”“Yes, Budenholzer and Rivers both are NBA Finals winners, but they’ve each made a name over recent seasons for struggling to make in-game adjustments, particularly against the Celtics. Blake Griffin took a shot at Rivers just before the All-Star break for that exact reason.”“Mazzulla is 3-1 against those coaches so far this season. Again, those are the coaches Smith decided to use to prove his point. Weird, but OK.”"
Joe Mazzulla has been the NBA’s Coach of the Year because of Boston Celtics success
Considering all the circumstances surrounding Mazzulla’s coaching stint with the Boston Celtics so far, there’s no doubt that he not only deserves the full-time role, but he deserves to win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award as well.
Let us never forget Mazzulla was an assistant coach expecting to progress in the coaching realm under Ime Udoka before the latter was let go. A week before the 2022-23 season. Mazzulla was able to keep this core together — one that nearly imploded during the 2020 bubble season — after the head coach that got them to the Finals for the first time was unceremoniously suspended for an inappropriate relationship within the organization.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are having career years. Marcus Smart is on par with LeBron James’ assist numbers. Derrick White has become a super sixth man. Sam Hauser has become a legitimate rotational weapon.
Smith is just doing what the national media does: undermine the Celtics. Mazzulla could make this conjecture a freezing cold take in a few months’ time.