Joe Mazzulla returns to coach Celtics after missing games with eye injury sustained in pickup game

Interim head coach Joe Mazzulla returned for the Boston Celtics on Sunday night after missing a pair of games due to an eye injury.

Mazzulla revealed Sunday, before Boston took on the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena, that he was hit in the face while playing in a pickup game last week at TD Garden. Mazzulla was hit in the eye Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the Celtics were due to host the Houston Rockets. He met with reporters normally before that game, but ended up not coaching.

“It just didn’t get much better. I think in a situation like that I thought it was a good opportunity to trust and empower the staff and the guys,” Mazzulla said, via The Associated Press. “I didn’t feel like I was at my best and I didn’t want to be a distraction.”

Mazzulla was diagnosed with a corneal abrasion in both of his eyes. Assistant Damon Stoudamire took his place and led the Celtics to a pair of wins in his absence, first against the Rockets and then against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Mazzulla said he couldn’t really see much of anything on Tuesday night, so he wasn’t able to watch film from the Houston game. Even opening his eyes was tough.

“By the time the Clippers game started I was kind of able to watch with the lights off and glasses on,” he said, via The Associated Press. “It was fun. It was a good perspective to be able to observe the team from the outside. It was also fun watching our staff and watching the guys.”

Mazzulla replaced Ime Udoka, who was suspended by the franchise before the season started.

Boston entered Sunday’s game against the Nuggets, which is the first of a four-game trip, on a four-game win streak and a league-best 26-10 record.

Boston Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla
Joe Mazzulla was diagnosed with a corneal abrasion in both eyes after he was hit in the face during a pickup game last week. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)