Boston Celtics HC Joe Mazzulla garners praise from peer for handling ferocious local media

Boston Celtics v Charlotte Hornets
Boston Celtics v Charlotte Hornets / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla has taken a lot of heat from the local media, and it hasn't gone unnoticed by his peers. From his reluctance to call timeouts to his quirky personality, he's often the press' scapegoat for the team's shortcomings.

Leominster native and lead man of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Mark Daigneault, commended Mazzulla's ability to thrive in such a high-pressure environment. 

"Mazzulla is really good," Daigneault said (h/t CelticsBlog's Noa Dalzell). "Because I grew up here, I know how the Boston media is. We used to go to Red Sox games and listen to WEEI afterward; it was just a bloodbath. Like Jesus, it's one out of 162 games, relax. What he's doing in this environment, he's got a Ferrari of a team in a city with high expectations, and he's just unflappable and makes the best decisions. The team is incredibly well-coached on both ends of the floor. When you coach against him, he puts you in tactical dilemmas. It's very uncomfortable playing against them, not just because of their talent, but also coaching against him."

Joe Mazzulla is rapidly improving as the Boston Celtics' head coach

Don't underestimate the significance of this praise from the current odds on favorite for NBA Coach of the Year. Coaches are often said to operate as a pseudo fraternity, and it's common to see respect among peers. Daigneault is one of the brightest young minds in the game, transferring the culture and turning his inexperienced group into a perennial power in short order. His admiration for Mazzulla felt genuine—a sign the Celtics might not have to worry about the man at the end of the bench. 

Much of the scrutiny Mazzulla has faced during his tenure has been regarding game management. Letting the players "figure it out" on the court when the game starts to slip away has been a philosophy that routinely nets negative consequences. The late-game offense involving Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown taking turns dribbling the air out of the basketball hasn't earned much fanfare either.

No matter how loaded the roster is on paper, there is still a "buy-in" factor. Jrue Holiday was an All-Star last year and the lead ball handler on a title contender—now he's a spot-up three-point shooter whose primary responsibility is to pass and play suffocating defense. Kristaps Porzingis went from chasing stats on a horrific Washington Wizards team to playing alongside a pair of superstars and going minutes without touching the basketball.

Plenty of times, situations like this have gone terribly wrong. Yet, the Celtics have the best record in basketball and one of the highest net ratings in NBA history. That's a credit to Mazzulla's leadership and ability to make this unit care more about winning a championship than pursuing personal glory. His methods might be peculiar at times, but clearly, they're working.