Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 29: Jayson Tatum #0 talks with head coach Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics during the third quarter against the Miami Heat in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 29, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

The end of the Celtics’ 2022-2023 season – a blowout loss at home in Game 7 after nearly erasing a 3-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals – felt in itself like an entire season. There was enough challenges in that two week stretch to encompass an entire season.

Yet this is a team that did deal with challenges, to an extent, throughout the entire season. After getting eliminated on Monday night, some of those earliest challenges seemed to be on the minds of the players.

  • Just a week before training camp began for this season, the Celtics suspended then-head coach Ime Udoka, who was coming off of a rookie year trip to the NBA Finals. It was quickly made clear Udoka would not be returning to the organization, and Joe Mazzulla was hired as the interim head coach. Given that, coaching became a focus with this team for most of the season.

    When asked about the Celtics’ issues with consistency throughout the year following Monday night’s loss, Al Horford was the first to mention adversity as a cause. “We had a lot going on this year and our guys should hold their heads high because we had a lot of adversity and in that locker room we dealt with a lot of things,” he said with purpose.

    What kind of ‘adversity’ and ‘things’ was Horford talking about. Asked the same question during the next media window, Marcus Smart brought up coaching.

    “We had a lot of ups and downs this season. Starting the season off with obviously losing our coach and then getting a new one,” Smart said.

  • Jaylen Brown had a similar answer during his press conference. His question, like the others, was not about nor did it prompt an answer about coaching (it was about what he personally took away from this season).

    “Those guys in that locker room, through any circumstance, have stepped up. Even from the start of the year, things started off with our coaching staff, with all the different turmoil that we’ve experienced throughout the year, injuries, whatever, these guys have been a resilient group,” Brown said.

    Granted, these comments shouldn’t be seen as a slight on Mazzulla. In fact, he received effusive praise from Brown and Jayson Tatum.

    “I give Joe my respect. Tough situation to be in. He took a head on and ran with it,” Brown said.

    “It was his first year. We got to the Conference Finals Game 7. I don’t think people give him, us, enough credit that two days before the season start find out we’re going to have a new coach,” Tatum added.

    “We got a new coach one day before media day. That was an adjustment. And we we all figured it out,” he continued. “I think Joe did a great job this year.”

  • These comments all come just a week after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Celtics “never got over” Udoka’s dismissal. That report came out when the Celtics trailed the Heat 3-0 in the ECF and looked to be heading to the offseason. It was left behind when the team started to make its comeback, but now that they’re done officially, it’s worth bringing back in relation to these unprompted comments.

    Mazzulla’s job status will be one of the biggest storylines of the Celtics’ offseason. On one hand, he struggled repeatedly in key moments and seemingly didn’t have full control of the locker room. At the same time, the team did sign him to a multi-year extension during the All-Star break, and he has the support of the Celtics’ two biggest stars and best players in Tatum and Brown.

    Will that be enough to secure his job? Will the team look to build a more complete staff around him, rather than replace him outright? These are some of the key questions facing Brad Stevens and the Celtics’ front office as their offseason officially begins.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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