Why did Celtics choose Joe Mazzulla? Mannix and Forsberg weigh in

Why did Celtics choose Mazzulla? Mannix and Forsberg weigh in originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics have no shortage of question marks heading into the 2022-23 NBA season.

On top of Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams' injuries, they'll have a new head coach for the campaign as assistant Joe Mazzulla will replace Ime Udoka. Mazzulla was named the interim head coach after Udoka received a season-long suspension for violating team guidelines.

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Mazzulla becomes the NBA's youngest head coach at only 34 years old. While the Celtics' front office and players have the utmost confidence in Mazzulla going forward, his lack of experience is worth noting. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix pointed out the uphill battle Mazzulla will face during Monday's "Celtics Post Up."

"I don't think what has happened with Ime Udoka specifically is going to affect them on the court. I think how they respond to Joe Mazzulla is what's going to affect them on the court," Mannix said. "Joe Mazzulla is an exceptional basketball mind. Brad Stevens recognized that in him early on. But he is just 34 years old. He is entering a championship situation with just one week's notice basically before he has to jump into training camp.

"He knows the offense, he knows the defense, he knows the roster and he's going to be backstopped by Brad Stevens and supported by him. But it's asking a lot for a young guy whose head coaching career amounts to two years at Fairmont State, to take over a championship team and to do it over an 82-game season."

I don't think Brad Stevens and the Celtics are looking for a one-year replacement. I think they're looking for a replacement over the next few years.

Chris Mannix on the Celtics promoting Joe Mazzulla

Mazzulla hasn't been a household name since joining the Celtics staff in 2019, but he still made a tremendous impact behind the scenes. As our Chris Forsberg mentions, the C's have relied heavily on Mazzulla to handle things on the defensive end. Boston ranked No. 2 in the league in defensive rating last season.

"Derrick White, when he got traded here, they sat him down and said, 'Look, if you need to know anything about this defense, go talk to Joe Mazzulla," Forsberg said. "Part of that is Ime's got other stuff going on, but they trust Joe Mazzulla enough with the defense that he can lead him through whatever he needed to know. All the new schemes and systems. Mazzulla was in charge of the game planning for the Miami series because they felt like he gave them the best chance to scout that.

"And so I think they really trust his acumen on that side of the ball and his ability to build relationships and all that. But still, as Mannix said, it's a 34-year-old kid who's now getting thrown into the fire a little bit, and there's so much more he has to learn on the fly."

So, why did the Celtics choose Mazzulla as the next guy rather than looking outside the organization? Mannix believes it's because Stevens sees Mazzulla as a potential long-term answer.

"I think one of the bigger reasons that Joe Mazzulla was tapped for this job is I don't think Brad Stevens and the Celtics are looking for a one-year replacement. I think they're looking for a replacement over the next few years," Mannix said. "It is highly unlikely we see Ime Udoka ever coach this Celtics team again, and rather than Brad Stevens coming down -- something he didn't want to do, and he's been very public about that -- you bring in Joe Mazzulla and you say, 'Look, it's your team now. If you do well, it's your team for the foreseeable future.'

"Maybe Brad Stevens is looking for his version of himself. Brad Stevens took over this team in his mid-30s. Joe Mazzulla, right around the same age."

Several players, including stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, spoke highly of Mazzulla during Celtics Media Day on Monday. The new head coach is entering the season with plenty of support from his peers. But as Mannix and Forsberg note, leading a championship-caliber team with such high expectations is going to be an enormous challenge.

Mazzulla's learning experience begins Tuesday when the team takes the court for training camp. The preseason opener is set for Oct. 2.