Mazzulla explains how failed interview with Jazz made him a better coach

Mazzulla explains how failed interview with Jazz made him a better coach originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

After eight-year head coach Quin Snyder decided it was time to step down, the Utah Jazz wasted no time looking for a replacement to fill the role. Dressed in a suit, Joe Mazzulla -- who was an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics at the time -- made the trip to Utah to interview for the position.

Although he wouldn't land the job -- Will Hardy, another Celtics assistant coach, would -- Mazzulla learned a lot from his failed experience in Utah.

"[I'd] never wear a suit ever again," Mazzulla joked to the media when asked what he learned prior to Friday night's matchup against the Jazz. "I wore a suit, and I was really uncomfortable. I'm really pissed I did that, it's useless."

At the time of his interview, the summer of 2022, Mazzulla had already spent four years on Boston's bench as an assistant. Prior to his time in the NBA, Mazzulla coached various levels of college basketball in both assistant and head coach capacities, even adding a year as an assistant with the Celtics' G League affiliate.

"I appreciate that I got to go through that [interview with the Jazz], especially doing it out of a different organization," Mazzulla added. "You get to see how other organizations run things, what they're looking for. And you get to put yourself to a test. Going into that interview, they asked me a particular question that I wasn't quite ready to answer, and it was, 'Do you think that at a young age, you can run an organization?' I knew I could, but I didn't give the answer I needed to give to get the job."

It was Hardy's confident answers that landed him the head coaching job in Utah, former C's president Danny Ainge told Deseret News at the time of the hiring. Hardy spoke Ainge's language, promising a mission statement of toughness, sacrifice, and passion.

Reflecting on his interview, Mazzulla credits that hiring process with helping him learn what his leadership style would be, and how it needs to continue to adapt and evolve depending on the environment.

"If you take away the glitz and glamor of the Celtics or the NBA, running an organization -- the values and the principles are the same," Mazzulla added. "I think answering that question in the Utah situation and looking at leadership from that standpoint and knowing that you've done it in the past -- you can do it, it just may look different. You may have to have different values or principles, depending on the environment or culture that you're in, but that's been the most exciting thing, especially this offseason, creating that environment."

After making deep playoff runs the past few seasons, the Celtics still just kept falling short of raising Banner 18. Mazzulla knew something needed to change, so he got to work on changing the mentality in the locker room to always have the team's best interest over any individual accomplishments. In the past, personal agendas got in the way of the team's success, something Gordon Hayward confirmed in a recent podcast.

"You have values that you stand for as a person, but you don't know what those values may be as an organization until you're in it and you work together with people to figure out what those are," Mazzulla said. "Creating an environment and developing values, and systems, and processes has probably been the most fun for me this offseason -- working through those and developing those further, and adjusting those as time goes on is kind of what I like doing even more than the basketball stuff, at times."

Derrick White can be viewed as a prime example of Mazzulla's leadership. When White first came to Boston, he was only seen as a bench piece. Under Mazzulla's coaching, White put all personal goals and accolades aside to focus on making winning plays, doing whatever he can to help his team win.

White has many times told media that he doesn't care about how many points he scores, or how many minutes per game he gets -- to White, all that matters is winning. That mindset alone was enough to secure a spot in Boston's starting lineup, where he gets praised each night by his teammates for his selfless play, which was recognized enough by fans to secure the eighth most votes amongst guards in the Eastern Conference in the first All-Star vote returns.

Mazzulla made it clear that Utah made the right choice to hire Hardy. Luckily for Boston, Mazzulla didn't need to wait long for the head coaching role to open up. Since taking over in the 2022-23 season, Mazzulla has boasted an impressive 83-32 regular season record.