NBA Insider says Joe Mazzulla is in danger of being fired by Celtics

Joe Mazzulla, Boston Celtics (Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images)
Joe Mazzulla, Boston Celtics (Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics’ postseason struggles have cast doubt over Joe Mazzulla’s future with the team. 

The Boston Celtics promoted Joe Mazzulla to the role of head coach before the season, then extended his contract after the team’s red-hot start. Guiding the reigning conference champs through stormy waters after Ime Udoka’s sudden exodus, Mazzulla’s regular season performance earned him a top-3 finish in Coach of the Year voting.

That’s not too shabby for a rookie head coach, especially one thrust into such a difficult position. Boston players clearly loved and respected Udoka. Meanwhile, Mazzulla didn’t coach in the NBA until he joined the Celtics’ bench in 2019. Not many assistants make the jump to head coach as quickly as Mazzulla did. He also faced extreme, immediate pressure to win. The Celtics were coming off a Finals appearance and the expectation was that Boston would repeat, regardless of who sat in the coach’s chair.

Now the Celtics find themselves in uncharted waters. After finishing the regular season with the second-best record in basketball, the Celtics scrapped their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite bumps in the road, it appeared — for a time — that Mazzulla was about to get Boston back to the Finals. Then came the Miami Heat — the No. 8 seed Miami Heat, led by Jimmy Butler. All of a sudden, the Celtics find themselves in a historically insurmountable hole, down 0-3.

Will the Boston Celtics fire Joe Mazzulla?

Mazzulla has been a lightning rod for criticism during the Celtics’ collapse against Miami. The team looked completely unprepared and uninspired on the road in Game 3, getting blown out 128-102 behind strong performances from Miami role players like Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Celtics’ implosion could place Joe Mazzulla on the hot seat. While Mazzulla has the respect of Celtics President Brad Stevens, it will be hard for Boston to repair its image if/when the Heat close out this series. If major personnel changes aren’t possible, the only route to meaningful progress could be a new voice on the sideline.

It cannot be overstated how disastrous a blowout loss to the 8-seed would be for this Celtics team. Boston has the most complete roster in the NBA, brimming with quality depth and winning experience. We know this team is capable of performing on this stage because we have seen them do it before. The only tangible difference between last year’s squad and this year’s squad (aside from a few personnel upgrades) is Mazzulla. Fair or not, he’s an easy scapegoat if the Celtics fall flat on their face.

The series is not over. The Celtics have enough talent to mount a serious comeback, even in the face of historically bad odds. No team has ever overcome an 0-3 deficit, but not many 2-seeds have been down 0-3 against the 8-seed. The Heat are a flawed team. If the Celtics can string together a few wins here — even if they ultimately fall short — perhaps Mazzulla’s seat cools for the time being.

On the flip side, if Jimmy Butler serves up another dish of embarrassment in Game 4, that could signal the swift and sudden end of the Mazzulla era in Boston.

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