Brad Stevens offers high praise for Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla: ‘He’s a terrific leader’

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Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens met with media Thursday to discuss the future of his club following a disappointing exit from the 2023 NBA playoffs. After winning 57 games in the regular season, Boston failed to make a return to the Finals, falling instead in seven games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

There’s been lots of chatter around Boston and the league about rookie head coach Joe Mazzulla. Following the suspension of then-head coach Ime Udoka, Mazzulla, 34, was thrust into the top leadership position on Boston’s sidelines just days before the regular season opened this fall. Stevens suggested on Thursday this was valuable experience for Mazzulla, and missing a trip to the Finals by a single game is a great accomplishment for a head coach, not a demerit.

Across the board, Stevens had high praise for Mazzulla, his players, and his team. He acknowledged the club did come up short, but said these earliest days of the offseason should be about celebrating what the Celtics were able to accomplish given so much adversity to ground any future decisions. As such, Stevens issues a strong vote of confidence in Mazzulla.

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“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.

Boston came within a single game of returning to the Finals. Stevens used his press conference to underscore how this would be considered a very successful campaign for most rookie head coaches and most teams.

“I mean when you look at it in the big picture,” Stevens told reporters “You have a team that was second in offense, second in defense, won 57 games and had a chance to win on your home court. There’s a lot of direction and organization that goes into that. I thought that he did a good job.”

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Concerns about Mazzulla’s fitness as the head coach of a bonafide contender remained a constant throughout the season. Stevens reminded reporters of Mazzulla’s experience on NBA sidelines.

“First of all,” Stevens began “Joe’s experience now you can probably measure in dog years, right? Because now he’s been in three Eastern Conference Finals and an NBA Finals, and he’s been now the head coach throughout one of those runs. That’s an experience in and of itself.”

Stevens did suggest the team will look to add more experience on the coaching staff by way of new assistant coaches, and that Mazzulla will “lead this charge”. Stevens also made it clear this search would prioritize candidates who are seasoned and have been a part of deep playoff runs.

Stevens acknowledged there is work to be done. Changes of some description are on the horizon for the Boston Celtics. Just don’t expect one at the head coaching position. Stevens’ praise for Mazzulla was consistent and clear.

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“He’s a terrific leader,” Stevens said. “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.”

“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.”

Not too long ago Brad Stevens was a young, inexperienced head coach for a Celtics team with a culture of excellent and winning. Stevens knows his coach needs his backing now more than anything.

“Our players, our staff, everybody around him believe in him, and we’ve got to do our best to support him going forward.”

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire

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