Relaxed, loose, comfortable. Those are a few of the words that come to mind to describe how Joe Mazzulla has seemed in his recent interactions with the media. His demeanor was much of the same on Tuesday afternoon following Boston’s first day of training camp in 2023.
Last season was a wild ride for the then-34-year-old Mazzulla. The suspension of Ime Udoka came just five days before the start of training camp, leaving the organization to pivot to Mazzulla.
Mazzulla inherited the staff he worked on under Udoka. The difference? It looked a lot different.
Udoka’s top assistant, Will Hardy, took a job to become the head coach of the Utah Jazz, and Damon Stoudamire, a key voice on the staff, left in March to accept a head coaching job at Georgia Teach.
Stoudamire was Mazzulla’s lead assistant and even filled in for Mazzulla when he missed two games in late December due to eye irritation. The Celtics did not make any additions to the coaching staff to replace Stoudamire.
Already in a tough situation, the rookie head coach was naturally under the most scrutiny in the postseason, and the criticisms were loud, presumably making the situation that much more difficult.
This year is different. Mazzulla now has had a full offseason to prepare and put together his own staff alongside Brad Stevens.
“One of the most fun things for me was going through the process of developing a staff,” Mazzulla said Monday. “Surrounding myself with people that can compliment the players, complement who I am as a coach, and can also work together.”
Boston’s coaching staff needed to be revamped, and they did just that. Most notably, Boston added two assistants with championship experience in Charles Lee, who helped Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks win the Finals in 2021, and Sam Cassell, who won a championship as a player with the Celtics in 2008 and has been an assistant since 2009.
Something the team responded well to under Udoka was having a coach who was a former player. Boston also added that in Amile Jefferson (Who also has a Duke connection with Jayson Tatum) and former Celtic Phil Pressey.
These additions certainly alleviate some of the pressure that was on Joe Mazzulla and provide more resources for the players. After Boston’s first practice session on Tuesday, Jayson Tatum was getting one-on-one work with Cassell.
Mazzulla guided the Celtics to a 57-25 season. Boston’s 57 wins were the most in a season since the 2008-2009 team, and now he has all the tools he needs to succeed. It’s going to be exciting to see what he is capable of.