Stevens explains why Celtics signed Mazzulla to contract extension


Brad Stevens is a strong believer in Joe Mazzulla leading the Boston Celtics going forward.

The Celtics announced Thursday they removed Mazzulla's interim tag, officially making him the 19th head coach in franchise history. He was originally named Boston's interim coach in September to take over for the suspended Ime Udoka.

Stevens explained why the team was comfortable promoting Mazzulla now, rather than waiting until the end of the season. 

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"Well, I think one of the things that's pretty obvious and evident about Joe is he's a really good coach and he also is just an outstanding leader," the Celtics president of basketball operations told reporters. "I think he's done a great job right from the get-go of galvanizing a locker room around a mission. And I give him a lot of credit, I give our players a lot of credit and I give the staff a lot of credit.

"As far as the timing of it from the standpoint of this is the one thing that they've obviously done a great job. They've obviously put themselves in position to compete for the things we want to ultimately compete for thus far. And I want to give them the opportunity to finish the regular season strong, hopefully the postseason strong, and not be in a cloud of uncertainty.


"I think that they certainly have earned that and Joe specifically has just done a great job. I mean, he really has. He's always prepared. He's really driven. He does all of the work necessary, but he also has a pulse on when the work needs to be put aside for the people. And so we were not only really comfortable with it, we're also really excited about him leading us now and into the future."

Mazzulla, who has led the C's to a league-best 42-17 record heading into the All-Star break, called the promotion a "dream come true."

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"I appreciate that from Brad and from the Celtics," he told reporters. "Ever since I've been here, even as an assistant, I've always felt their support. I've always felt their communication. I've always felt their honesty. And so since I've been here, I always knew exactly where I stood and even though it was an interim position, I knew exactly where I stood. I knew I was gonna get a fair shake, I knew I was gonna get an opportunity. I knew that I was just going to be able to do it the way that I thought to give us the best chance to be successful without any pressure because of that. And so because of their standards and their communication and how they treated me as an assistant, I just felt comfortable regardless.

"I think the second piece is my confidence just kind of comes from one, my faith, and two, just the players. Like, this is one of the best locker rooms I've ever been in and it's very easy to be confident when you have a group of people, the character that we have and the group of players that we have. So because the organization is aligned very well, it's very easy because we're on the same page that winning is the most important thing. So, just very grateful for that."

Mazzulla and the Celtics enter the break as the odds-on favorites to win the NBA championship. Stevens is glad that when the postseason comes around, Mazzulla won't have job security in the back of his mind.

"The hardest thing to do would be coaching, looking behind you and looking over your shoulder," Stevens said. "It's about looking forward and if you're in a Game 7, know that everybody in the organization believes in you and, you know, that uncertainty is erased."

Mazzulla will make his official head coaching debut when the Celtics return to action next Thursday vs. the Indiana Pacers.