The current meltdown the Boston Celtics are experiencing during the 2023 postseason — mainly the domination at the hands of the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals — is a seemingly glaring indictment of the job Joe Mazzulla is doing as full-time head coach after beginning the season as an interim emergency fill-in.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix isn’t seeing the imminent elimination Boston is facing as the nail in the coffin for Mazzulla’s coaching tenure, however. Instead, Mannix sees Mazzulla’s close relationship with Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens as a reason why the West Virginia star’s coaching tenure is safe.
Mannix instead sees the absence of a strong assistant coach as the primary reason why the team is not reaching its potential under Mazzulla as the Cs reach the deeper stages of the postseason for the first time with the Johnson, Rhode Island native leading the charge.
The Boston Celtics must add a high-profile coaching assistant to Joe Mazzulla
What’s missing on the Boston Celtics coaching staff, as Mannix suggests, is someone serving the role Mazzulla did under suspended-then-fired former Cs coach and current Houston Rockets HC Ime Udoka. Before Stevens considers any major moves involving any of the team’s core players, adding a veteran assistant like Monty Williams, Frank Vogel, or Kenny Atkinson could bring stability to the bench and bring on an additional voice who can command respect when the going gets tough.
Doing so, of course, could undermine Mazzulla somewhat. After leading the team to a game off of the league’s best record in 2022-23, Mazzulla would’ve earned a full vote of confidence just about anywhere else. But the expectations are different in Boston, and Mazzulla likely knows that at this point — especially as someone who replaced a coach who brought the team to the NBA Finals in his first season.
Mazzulla should have to prove himself more, especially in the event the Cs get bounced from the postseason a round earlier than the season prior. Having him do so with the help of a veteran coach who’s been at or near the mountaintop is the best way forward for Stevens and co., especially if the vision for Mazzulla’s future is being a long-term coach in Boston.