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Boston Celtics remove interim tag, officially appoint Joe Mazzulla as head coach

The Boston Celtics are removing the interim tag off of Joe Mazzulla.

The team announced Thursday that Mazzulla, who has been serving as the interim coach during Ime Udoka’s suspension, has become the 19th head coach in franchise history.

The Celtics (42-17) have a two-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference and are looking to return to the NBA Finals after falling last year to the eventual-champion Golden State Warriors, 4-2. 

At 34, Mazzulla is the youngest current coach in the NBA and he and his staff will serve as coaches during the NBA All-Star Game that will take place Sunday in Salt Lake City.

Boston Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla calls to his players during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Who is Joe Mazzulla?

Mazzulla had served as an assistant coach on the Celtics staff since 2019 prior to stepping into the interim role at the start of the season. In November, his first full month as Boston’s interim coach, Mazzulla was named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month.

He started his coaching career as an assistant for Glenville State University, a NCAA Division II program, for two seasons after graduating from WVU in 2011. He then spent three seasons as an assistant at Fairmont State before he served one season as an assistant for the the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Gatorade League. Mazzulla became the head coach of Fairmont State University in 2017, posting a 43-17 record over two seasons, with one trip to the NCAA men’s tournament.

Mazzulla played four seasons at West Virginia University under head coaches John Beilein and Bob Huggins. The Mountaineers made four-straight men’s NCAA tournament appearances during Mazzulla’s collegiate career, including a Final Four run in 2010.

What does this mean for former coach Ime Udoka?

This all but marks the end of Udoka’s time with the Celtics and he will be free to pursue another head coaching job after a brief flirtation with the Nets when they fired Steve Nash. Internal and external pressure forced the Nets to go in a different direction.

Udoka, who played in the league seven seasons, had been considered one of the rising stars in NBA coaching circles after he led the Celtics to a 51-31 record and an NBA Finals appearance last season, his first as a head coach. 

What did Ime Udoka do to get suspended?

In September, the Celtics announced that Udoka would be suspended the entire 2022-23 season for “violations of team policies.” Several outlets, including USA TODAY Sports, reported Udoka, 45, had a relationship with a team staffer. ESPN reported that an independent investigation revealed Udoka “used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship.”

Source: USA Today