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Joe Mazzulla Responds to Critics, Talks Celtics in NBA Finals

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Joe Mazzulla and Celtics with East trophy
Image credit to Boston Celtics

Joe Mazzulla and his Boston Celtics earned a long break before the NBA Finals thanks to sweeping the Indiana Pacers. That long break means two things for Mazzulla and his team – more time to prepare and more time for their journey to a potential championship to be discussed.

Mazzulla was doing some of the latter on Wednesday while appearing on “985 The Sports Hub” in Boston. The former Mountaineer turned successful NBA coach answered questions ranging from the availability of one of his key players to critics who say Boston simply took advantage of a weak path to win the East.

On Boston advancing thanks to injuries to key players on their opponents and throughout the rest of the Eastern Conference field: “No, I mean, I don’t hear a ton of it. You obviously know what’s out there just because you getting asked questions every other day, but at the same time, it doesn’t **** me off. It’s just control what you can, nothing you can do about it like and I and I think there’s always two sides to to a narrative regardless of the path that we’ve been on. If you don’t take care of business, there’ll be a reason why. And if you do take care of business, there’ll be a reason why. So I think the great thing this team has done this year is kind of just stay balanced, focus on what’s true, and at the same time, focused on the things that we can control and and I think the test that’s been put put in front of us, we’ve kind of handled, you know, as a team and and with togetherness and kind of with the right mindset,” answered Mazzulla.

The 35-year-old, who became the youngest coach to lead a team to the NBA Finals since the legendary Bill Russell did it in 1969, did acknowledge the extra incentive to win a title for veteran Al Horford. “There’s definitely an awareness to it. I think that’s kind of what brings a team closer together around this time,” said Mazzulla about Horford having logged the most minutes among active players without a championship.

As for if the Celtics are expecting Kristaps Porzingis back for the NBA Finals, possibly against his former team, Mazzulla just responded with a “not sure” while admitting he was “ramping up on the court a little bit” this week.

Despite being a heavy favorite in every series to this point, Mazzulla knows the immense pressure he’s dealing with. Boston is in a “championship or bust” mode after being upset in the Eastern Conference Finals last year to the 8-seed Miami Heat.

Mazzulla took over the interim duties for Ime Udoka before the 2022-2023 season, leading the Celtics to 57 wins during his rookie season. Mazzulla also coached in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game.

Mazzulla, who played guard at West Virginia from 2006-11, has worked his way up the coaching ladder over the past decade. Mazzulla began pursuing a coaching career following his graduation from West Virginia. Following coaching stints at Glenville State and Fairmont State, the former Mountaineer was hired as an assistant of the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s G-League team. Mazzulla went back to Fairmont State in 2017 to serve as the head coach of the Fighting Falcons.

During his WVU days, Mazzulla was most known for his 17-point performance in the 2010 Elite Eight against Kentucky. Mazzulla stepped in for an injured Truck Bryant, helping the Mountaineers reach their first Final Four since 1959. Mazzulla played 145 career games at West Virginia.

For a related story, Joe Mazzulla spoke about the passing of Bill Walton after Boston’s game 4 series clinching win.

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