After the way the Boston Celtics season ended, there was some speculation regarding whether or not Joe Mazzulla would return as the head coach, but Celtics general manager Brad Stevens put such speculation to rest by confirming that Mazzulla will indeed be back for a second season.
"Yeah, I think he is [the best head coach for this team]," Stevens said of Mazzulla at a press conference on Thursday. "I thought he did a really good job with this group. Everybody's going to overreact to the best players and coaches after every game. That's always the way it is. We know that going in, so we have to be able to judge things on the whole."
Mazzulla took over as head coach of the Celtics suddenly -- and with no prior experience -- when the team suspended Ime Udoka shortly before the season started. Mazzulla, the youngest head coach in the league, had to learn how to coach at the highest level on the fly while leading a team with legitimate championship aspirations. Given those circumstances, Stevens was impressed with what he saw from the rookie coach.
"I think when you consider the position he was thrust into and the overall accomplishments of the group, I thought he did a really good job," Stevens said. "I mean, when you look at it, in the big picture, and having a team that was second in offense, second in defense, won 57 games and has a chance to go to the NBA Finals on your home court, you know, there's a lot of direction and organization that goes into that. I thought that he did a good job."
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Stevens pointed to Mazzulla's ability as a leader and willingness to learn as two main reasons he feels confident keeping him as the coach moving forward,
"He's a terrific leader, he'll only get better at anything that he can learn from this year, because he's constantly trying to learn. And he's accountable," Stevens said. "Those leadership qualities are hard to find. I know they're easy to talk about, but when you can show all those through the expectations and the microscope that he was under, that's hard to do... Our players, our staff, everybody around him believe(s) in him, and we've got to do our best to support him going forward."
Mazzulla's first season as the head coach of the Celtics was far from flawless, but considering the circumstances, he did a decent job. So it makes sense that the Celtics are giving him another crack at it. Let's see what he can do with a full offseason and training camp to work with, and a year of experience under his belt.