Cool, calm and collected.
Those words perfectly describe Joe Mazzulla in his first game as head coach of the Boston Celtics. Sure, it was just a pre-season contest, but any time a team wins by 41 points, it’s worth praising. Mazzulla led his team to a commanding 134-93 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday afternoon.
Despite their turnover issues (a storyline that dates back to last season), the Celtics have put in an impressive performance. Jaylen Brown led the way with 24 points, but Boston got everyone involved, with Mazzulla handing out minutes to every active player on the training camp roster.
After the contest, new point guard Malcolm Brogdon had nothing but praise for the Mazzulla, saying the head coach stayed calm and even made some nice plays.
“I thought he was excellent. I thought he was composed [and] I thought he had some really good non-timeout games.
Brogdon himself had a remarkable night, dropping 11 points, five rebounds and nine assists in his debut with the team. He thrived in his new role as sixth man, pacing the team in the gaming department.
The veteran also gave some insight into Mazzulla’s coaching style, noting that “he’s not a screamer.” Brogdon also mentioned that Mazzulla is “very direct and very honest”, which he thinks is what every player wants in a coach.
“He’s not a crier; he’s not a howler,” Brogdon said of Mazzulla. “He’s very deliberate; he is very direct. He’s not a guy who’s going to talk too much to you and tell you too much because he wants you to go out and have a clear mind. He’s going to be very direct and very honest with what he expects of you, which I think is all an NBA player expects from a coach.
This style might be a bit different from Udoka’s, as he could often be seen calling timeouts and digging players on the sidelines after errors. According to Brogdon’s report, Mazzulla steers her ship a little differently.
And while the Celtics managed to overtake the Hornets, Jaylen Brown noted that the team’s practices were tougher than the game.
“The practice was much harder than the game. Don’t let this game fool you, we have a lot of work to do.
Along with his 24 points, Brown had five rebounds and an impressive assist for Al Horford downstairs. He shot 8 of 11 from the field and 3 of 5 from three-point range, getting off to a strong start and then helping Boston maintain their lead.
As for the coach himself, Mazzulla expressed a ton of gratitude after the game. He said he was delighted with the group of players he coached and relished the opportunity.
“I felt like I was coaching a great team that wanted to win. It was fun coaching. Just grateful for that. Like I said, grateful because the Celtics, grateful because I can coach a group of great guys and great players. And not many people in my position have that opportunity, so I’m really more grateful than anything.
“I felt like I was coaching a great team that wanted to win”
Joe Mazzzula talks about his early days as interim head coach pic.twitter.com/ZgoUnRssbE
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 2, 2022
Although the circumstances are less than ideal, few coaches have the chance to take the reins of a true title contender fresh off an NBA Finals appearance. Mazzulla will have to rely on their staff and players while doing their best.
When discussing the team’s performance on the pitch, Mazzulla expressed a relatively conservative stance. While he acknowledged the team played hard and did some things well, he also said it doesn’t matter much as they still have to ‘keep improving’.
“Our guys tried to do the right thing, they played hard and we have a lot of movies we can learn from. So it’s a balance. It’s a balance between what we did well, but it doesn’t really matter because we have to keep improving.
Again, you can only learn so much from a single preseason game, especially when Boston used a 16-man rotation. But based on his words, his actions and the criticism he’s received, Mazzulla appears to be on the right track in the head coach’s chair.