Reporter has about-face on Boston Celtics HC’s job security

ESPN's Brian Windhorst once reporter Mazzulla would pay the price for the Boston Celtics' season, then suddenly, he was never in danger -- so which is it? Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
ESPN's Brian Windhorst once reporter Mazzulla would pay the price for the Boston Celtics' season, then suddenly, he was never in danger -- so which is it? Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Once upon a time, I emphatically stated that Joe Mazzulla should not be your fall guy for the Boston Celtics franchise’s failure. Well apparently, Joe Mazzulla was never your fall guy.

On the July 17 edition of his Hoop Collective Podcast, ESPN insider and potential clairvoyant Brian Windhorst said that Mazzulla’s job was never in jeopardy and that the Celtics’ franchise direction was squarely behind his vision.

“Not only was he never in trouble,” Windhorst said at the 10:30 mark of the podcast. “Brad Stevens’ biggest moves as the president of the team has been to lean into more of the way Joe Mazzulla wants to play.”

I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the important bit, as it directly contradicts something Windhorst said on May 23rd, as the Boston Celtics stared down an 0-3 deficit and I began questioning my faith in the universe.

“There is a wave of anger from New England,” Windhorst said the day following Game 3 of the ECF. “And a rising expectation elsewhere [that] Joe Mazzulla will pay the price for this 0-3 hole the Celtics find themselves in.”

Normally, this kind of hear-say wouldn’t raise my eyebrows beyond their normal-but-still-slightly-raised levels. Had a talking head on NBA Today said that Mazzulla should never have been in trouble, then that’s all fine and good. Had some dubiously sourced Twitter account done this flip-flop, I probably would have continued with my afternoon unbothered.

But Windhorst is a reporter, one with unmatched street cred’ for knowing things other people simply do not. His legendary Nostradamus moment came last summer, when—live on television—his pointer fingers developed a mind of their own and began swirling around the screen as he predicted an incoming blockbuster out of Utah.

Then Rudy Gobert was traded for the ransom of an Egyptian Pharoh, and everyone hailed Windhorst as the new king of NBA information.

If he said he was hearing that the Earth may potentially receive alien visitors in the coming weeks or months, I would cautiously pay closer attention to what the Pentagon was telling us. If he called me up and said that league sources were monitoring if my milk was spoiling faster than usual, I’d go check the fridge.

But saying Mazzulla’s job was “never in danger” two months after saying he would “pay the price” for the Boston Celtics’ failure feels like an irreconcilable duo. Unless we are assuming his first report was sourced from a parakeet, it seems pretty clear that Mazzulla’s job was—at least for a moment—in danger.

But hold your horses, because I think it’s possible Windhorst didn’t contradict himself. The proof is in the pudding, as the kids say, or the actual words each report used. Call up your high school English teacher, because it’s time to put your NBA Basketball/English Class interdisciplinary party hat on.

I have concocted three explanations for this seemingly obvious contradiction:

No. 1: The ‘expectation’ Joe Mazzulla would pay the price came from ‘elsewhere,’ and he was always safe in the mind of Boston Celtics GM Brad Stevens

This one is the least fun but probably-almost-certainly-but-not-totally-100%-certainly true. In a close reading of the “pay the price,” quote, Windhorst carefully explained that it was the “expectation elsewhere” that Mazzulla was in trouble, not necessarily from the Celtics internally.

This would imply that the second report that he was never in danger came directly from the Boston Celtics’ front office, meaning that it was merely the assumption of rival teams that was wrong, and thus a perfectly valid report

No. 2: Joe Mazzulla totally was in trouble, and other teams rightly realized it

In this situation, though, a borderline-Stalinist erasure of history took place in the Boston Celtics staff, conveniently saying he was always safe.

This is much more interesting, especially if you’d like to poke fun at the Cs. It’s quite possible that Mazzulla rapidly found himself in the hot seat staring down such an embarrassing series deficit, but why would the Celtics ever admit that?

If we accept that the first report was sourced from outside the team, the Boston Celtics have zero incentive to admit it was ever true. They can just smile and pretend everything was sunshine and lollipops, making Windhorst annoyed he ever reported it in the first place.

What trouble? Joe? Him? Ha ha ha, what are you talking about?! We love Joe!? Right, Joe? (whispers through teeth) Right Joe…

No. 3: Is anyone’s job ever really safe? Is it ever really in jeopardy? What even is a job, anyway? What does it all mean? Why are we here?

This last one is a personal apology to every English teacher I’ve ever had. At least one paper I gave you sounded a little something like that.