Last season, the Boston Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals under head coach Ime Udoka. Shortly after, Udoka was suspended for the entire 2022-23 season, and the Celtics announced assistant coach Joe Mazzulla would take over head coaching duties on an interim basis.
In February, the team announced it would drop the interim tag and officially named Mazzulla as the 19th head coach in franchise history.
Udoka eventually moved on from Boston and was named head coach of the Houston Rockets.
Meanwhile, the Celtics had a successful regular season under Mazzulla, earning the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But the team failed to return to the Finals.
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Despite what transpired, Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ former president of basketball operations, thinks Boston is better off with Mazzulla as coach.
Ainge worked in the Celtics’ front office 18 years and shared some of his thoughts about the state of his former team in an interview with The Boston Globe.
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Ainge said he believes Mazzulla is a better coach than Udoka.
“This team found joy. They were inconsistent, but they were rooting for each other. They were all defending Joe in the media,” Ainge told The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy.
“You see Joe’s toughness and stubbornness. He’s a relentless worker. He has a passion to learn. Joe is a leader, and I think this was a difficult situation with the high expectations the team had coming in. I don’t think there’s anybody there that doesn’t believe that Joe is better than Ime (Udoka) as a coach.”
Ainge acknowledged he is biased on the topic because he hired Mazzulla as an assistant coach.
After Ainge stepped down from his position in Boston’s front office, Brad Stevens transitioned from his role as head coach to president of basketball operations. Stevens then named Udoka as the Celtics’ head coach ahead of the start of the 2021-22 NBA season.
Ainge is now a top executive with the Utah Jazz and helps oversee basketball operations. He works closely with Jazz general manager Justin Zanik.
Mazzulla interviewed for the Jazz head coaching job last year, but former Celtics assistant Will Hardy was hired.
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Mazzulla was criticized throughout the playoffs for some of his decisions, with some detractors citing his lack of coaching experience.
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